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Mike Terry, Deseret News
A pedestrian overpass connects to a parking lot allowing access to the trailhead near Woods Cross.

Forget that the Legacy Parkway is joyfully expected to take 30 percent of the cars off I-15 in south Davis County.

(That's three out of every 10 cars there now, or about 45,000 total.)

Never mind that it should improve air quality in the area, because of less congestion.

Ignore the fact that it will provide a viable, multilane option through northern Utah when I-15 is closed or restricted due to an accident.

Overlook that after $685.2 million, more than 7 1/2 years of combined work and delays, this four-lane and 14-mile-long highway will finally open in just six more days.

There's so much more to the Legacy Parkway, which opens about 5 p.m. Saturday.

• The Legacy Parkway — state Route 67 — is the first parkway in Utah to be given the scenic byway designation before construction was finished. It will be a far different driving experience than I-15.

• The road purposely curves frequently to enhance its scenic qualities.

• Being farther west than I-15, its views of the Wasatch Mountains are extraordinary.

• Semitrailers are not allowed on the highway, with the exception of during accidents or problems on I-15.

• Most of the architectural features — guard rails, overpasses, etc. — are unique and worth close inspection. Some of the road's overpasses boast decorative nighttime illumination.

• The rock work on overpasses strengthens a "gateway" or "portal" effect when driving through.

• Signs along Legacy are shorter and less unsightly.

• As an asphalt highway, Legacy is designed to be much quieter than I-15.

• There's both a paved foot-bike-horse trail that goes alongside the road as well as a separate unpaved path. Numerous special parking lots along the east side of Legacy offer easy access to these trails.

"It's been a great project," Rick Campagna, one of the three project managers for the Legacy Parkway, said. "It's a work of art."

Vic Saunders, a spokesman for UDOT Region 1, believes the estimate of taking 30 percent of cars off I-15 is reasonable. That's because southbound Highway 89 through Farmington dumps right into Legacy. You can exit to I-15, but that's not the norm.

"If I lived in east Davis County I would take Legacy," Saunders said.

Also, once you get on the Legacy Parkway, there are only two possible exits until its end — an exit at Parrish Lane in Centerville and another at 500 South in Bountiful.

Similarly, if you are driving north on I-215, that freeway will lead directly into Legacy, unless you exit to the east to connect with I-15.

Lynn de Freitas, executive director for Friends of the Great Salt Lake, took a tour of the Legacy Parkway a few weeks ago.

"I'm delighted. ... There's a lot going for it," she said, hoping it will set a pattern for more "multimodal answers" to transportation problems.

"Turning a freeway into a parkway" is a very good environmental solution, she believes.

Former Rep. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, was part of a team of lawmakers pushing for the Legacy Parkway settlement to pass. Today Adams is head of the state's Transportation Commission.

"It's phenomenal to have the road open," Adams said. "None of us knew it would take this long. ... It will be significant for those who commute to Salt Lake, almost emotional."

He said he's met north Davis County commuters in recent years who found it has been easier to travel I-84 up Weber Canyon to Park City and then down I-80 to reach Salt Lake City rather than go on congested I-15 in Davis County.

"That's not economical," Adams said, believing the Legacy Parkway will result in an improved quality of life for northern Utah residents.

"Sept. 13 will be a great day for all northern Utah," Adams said. "It has been a significant effort for everyone involved."

Campagna said all the Legacy legal delays meant UDOT had to totally redo its plans and obviously led to the parkway's creation — a big plus for aesthetics as well as recreational users.

"The trails weren't a required component for the roadway," he stressed.

The trails associated with Legacy are simply amazing and will all open when the highway does. They interconnect with other trails, like the old Denver & Rio Grande rail trail and the Jordan River Parkway. All paths also have overpasses or underpasses to safely traverse Legacy.

Campagna said no one at UDOT knew what a parkway involved when that concept came along. Visits back east were necessary.

He stressed there's still a lot of landscaping work yet to do after the highway opens. However, an 8-inch waterline to water vegetation along the highway is already in place. Trail segments, too, will have to close again in coming months for more landscaping work.

"The nature preserve is the crown jewel of this project," Campagna said.

This is a 2,225-acre wildlife preserve on Legacy's west side and east of the shores of the Great Salt Lake.

"We drew a line in the sand," he said. Development will never occur west of the Legacy Highway, as an environmental protection.

Campagna said UDOT cleaned tons of garbage and debris on this land and returned it to its original state. It also moved power lines and utilities. Now a single high voltage line remains, because it was too expensive to move.

One improvised telephone pole in this area serves as an eagle's nest.

Campagna also said that UDOT was able to preserve extra pockets of wetlands along Legacy that total another 20 acres.

Near Glovers Lane in Farmington, Legacy will soon feature a section of flowering plum trees in one section of the median. He also said that Legacy doesn't have drainage in its inside median. There will be lakes of water there in spring, or after rainfall, as was the plan.

To some anxious commuters, perhaps the lone downside to Legacy will be the 55 mph speed limit.

Will the Utah Highway Patrol be strictly enforcing that speed limit from day one?

UHP spokesman Cameron Roden said his department will first look at the voluntary compliance of motorists for the 55 mph limit before considering any special enforcement there.

But troopers will patrol the new roadway, and speeders should beware. Roden said the UHP may enlist the aid of the Davis County Sheriff's Office, if necessary, to adequately patrol the road.

Once Legacy opens, commuters in Davis County aren't totally in the clear yet. Work on Highway 89 in North Salt Lake may continue for another week or so. Also, the "lane gain" project between Farmington and Layton may go on until Dec. 1.

For more information on the Legacy Parkway, go to www.dot.state.ut.us/legacy.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com