Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Parkway's north interchange is under construction in Farmington. The project is 80 percent complete.

FARMINGTON — Eighteen bridges — 10 in the Farmington area, a few of which are some of the longest bridges in Utah — had to be built to make the 14-mile Legacy Parkway work. Those are just for the cars.

Ten pedestrian bridges are being built to accommodate people traveling in the same area by foot, bike or horse.

Enough concrete for 2,500 foundations for homes has been used so far.

And because the Legacy Parkway is now 80 percent complete, more is still to come.

When the parkway opens this fall, it will be the second-largest road project in Utah and carry a $685 million price tag. It comes in second only to the $1.6 billion I-15 reconstruction leading up to the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.

But Legacy will drop to third place after completion of a 20-mile I-15 reconstruction project in Utah County, which is expected to cost $2.6 billion. Construction on that project is expected to begin in late 2009 or early 2010 and could last five years.

Todd Jensen, the project director for Legacy, is excited to get Legacy done. Jensen has been involved with the parkway since 1997. He took a brief break in 2004 to be the state's bridge engineer and came back to the project in January 2007.

He's the guy who can talk about the feel of the parkway, its "gateways" and basically every engineering aspect of building it.

Although the parkway has garnered much publicity since it was announced, some people still think it will be a toll road, Jensen says.

It won't be.

Rather, the rock-faced overpasses from North Salt Lake to Centerville and large monuments being built in Farmington will let motorists know they're driving on a different type of road, and the trees that will be planted nearby will mimic the orchards of Fruit Heights and Farmington.

This different kind of road will be quieter than a standard freeway. The speed limit is 55 mph, and it will be paved in asphalt.

Instead of running across the roadway, the tines, or small grooves that are added to roadways to aid in water drainage, will run lengthwise.

When completed, northbound motorists on I-215 will drive straight onto Legacy unless they choose to exit the freeway toward I-15. It's the same situation for U.S. 89 motorists heading south.

Jensen gushes about what the project will accomplish. He said it will offer:

• Better traffic circulation through Davis County.

• A companion pedestrian trail that runs the entire length of the parkway.

• A different feel evidenced by decorative overpasses and landscaped trail areas.

• The Legacy Nature Preserve, a 2,225-acre portion of land along the parkway restored to and preserved in its natural state.

• Less disturbance to wetlands than originally allowed; although the Legacy project is permitted to disturb 103 acres of wetlands, he is certain the project will disturb less than that.

• New wetlands, created within the Parkway corridor, to replace those lost to the construction project.

• A better rapport between the Utah Department of Transportation and groups that originally opposed the project.

A lawsuit by the Sierra Club, Utahns for Better Transportation and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson resulted in an injunction against the project that brought work to a halt in 2002.

Before that, Legacy had an approved budget of $451 million and was to be completed in 2004.

In September 2005, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Brad Yates from the Sierra Club signed an agreement in principle to set up the framework for settling the lawsuit.

The Federal Highway Administration began issuing permits for the project's construction in early 2006 and construction began in the spring.

Jensen said he expects the parkway to be completed on time in the fall, likely in September, and on budget, now $685,193,000.

"It's a very tight budget, no question," Jensen said.

And though the project costs $240 million more than when initially budgeted, he says the parkway is going to be better than it was originally planned.

An ongoing long-term study on the impacts of highway noise on migratory birds will likely serve as a model for future highway projects, not only in Utah, but across the country. Already, local leaders in Davis County are starting to plan for a North Legacy highway.

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