Last night Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. and the Sierra Club’s Brad Yates signed an agreement in principle, effectively settling the battle over the Legacy Parkway.
The compromise will enable construction of the parkway to begin in May 2006, with completion possible by 2008. It also, says the Tribune, phases in other transportation projects (no specifics were reported). Yay for the State, yay for residents of Davis County, right? Well, opponents—some six environmental conservation groups—get some pretty good concessions out of the deal.
The greener aspects of the deal are that large commercial trucks may not use the highway; there will be no billboards; the speed limit will be 55 mph; and it will only be four lanes wide for the next 15 years. As well, the parkway will feature noise-reducing rubberized pavement and an additional 125 acres of Great Salt Lake wetlands will be set aside for the Legacy Nature Preserve (as opposed to being developed). It gets better: $2.5 million has been pledged for an environmental study of light rail and bus rapid transit.
Additional stipulations include putting off plans to reconstruct and expand I-15 until 2020. Also, those who sign the agreement pledge not to sue again (except on future extensions of the parkway).
Lawmakers say, although they were confident they’d eventually prevail, that they settled in order to avoid a costly, protracted legal battle and alleviate congestion on I-15. How very…cool. We’ve got suits and hippies negotiating and all sides are coming out happy. Isn’t that one of the seven signs? If only more matters could be settled as fairly.
Actually, some people are still bitching. David Creer, executive director of the Utah Trucking Association, was upset about the restrictions on truckers. He lamented that commerce is being sacrificed in this agreement, saying “banning trucks from…a major new freight corridor”? will set a precedent for other environmental groups to challenge other new highways.
It might. So what? Take a bunch of commuters off I-15 and there’s more room for them big ol’ trucks. When the existing corridor is suddenly less populated, you’ll realize an improvement over your current situation. And “commerce”? will be just fine.
We should all be happy that one of the most contentious battles in State history has been resolved amicably. We are no longer paying for a slap-fight (the bill so far is $220 million). And the State, in one more aspect of the deal, is working to set up a process for avoiding future lawsuits such as the one over the Legacy Parkway. And that’s as close to pleasing everybody that we may ever get.