Planning needs to give way to construction as soon as possible now that an official route has been proposed for the 13-mile West Davis Highway.
"Alignment C," which was favored by most city officials and all seven transportation commissioners, is opposed by environmentalists who feel it will have more of an impact on the wetlands than "alignment A." City officials like it because it has the least impact on development.A compromise will likely result, as a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday it's doubtful alignment C will be permitted under federal environmental law.
At least the 13-mile portion of Gov. Mike Leavitt's proposed 120-mile Legacy Highway has passed a considerable hurdle with the Utah Transportation Commission's recommendation. All parties now need to work together to allow construction to begin by the target date, July of next year.
The Legacy Highway is part of an overall transportation plan that includes I-15 reconstruction, light rail and commuter rail. It needs to go forth to help the state deal with the large influx in population that is anticipated in the next 30 years.
In reality the Legacy Highway is long overdue. Traffic in Davis County already moves too slowly. As any Davis or Weber County commuter will attest, a trip from Ogden to Salt Lake City basically means using a congested and overworked I-15. To prevent even more congestion, the Legacy Highway needs to be built as soon as permits allow, starting with the West Davis Highway.
Ideally, the highway should be a toll road. By making it such, commuters would have a viable choice during peak traffic times, and construction costs would not be as much of a burden to taxpayers.
Utahns are spoiled when it comes to driving on highways and freeways. Unlike some other states, there are no toll booths charging a fee for using a major highway. A few roads in recreation areas now charge user fees, and it makes sense to use the system to help pay for larger thoroughfares.
The critical issue now is to complete the various requirements to get construction under way. UDOT is working on an environmental impact statement, which it hopes to have drafted in three months. In the meantime discussions need to be held and decisions need to be made regarding the route so that it meets federal environmental standards. Once that is done, construction should start immediately.