A plea to the transportation budget committee Wednesday for money to study the construction of a road over Utah Lake didn't appear to get a favorable reception, with one lawmaker saying money should also be allocated for a litigation fund if the road is built.
Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-American Fork, asked the committee for $3 million to study the road as a way to prepare for future growth on the west side of Utah Lake. He said it would help air quality because people could travel seven to eight miles over the lake instead of 40 miles around the lake, reducing emissions.
Sen. Carlene Walker, R- Cottonwood Heights, made the comment about a litigation fund.
"Looking at what we did with Legacy, I think this would be just as big a fight," said Walker, co-chairwoman of the transportation budget committee.
The Legacy Parkway in Davis County is located near the Great Salt Lake wetlands. It was delayed for several years as a result of litigation over the environmental effects of the road on the nearby lake. The state recently settled the litigation and is scheduled to open the road this fall.
Sumsion told the committee he was aware of environmental concerns with building a road over the lake. He said he had been in contact with groups such as the Sierra Club and was anticipating a possible fight.
John Njord, director of the Utah Department of Transportation, gave little comment on the issue except to tell the committee that using money from the state's transportation fund to pay for the study was troubling because he has limited funds to take care of existing roads. He said using the state's general fund would have less impact on the state's highway system.
"I've got to preserve that resource so we can take care of our existing services," Njord said of the request for $3 million to fund a study of the Utah Lake road.
Sumsion said he didn't anticipate asking the state for additional funding to build the road. He said he believed the road could be built as a toll facility, with help from impact fees from residents living on the west side of Utah Lake.The transportation budget committee will make a recommendation today on what issues it would like to fund with transportation dollars. The committee's recommendation will then go to the Executive Appropriations Committee for approval.