Environmentalists say “Legacy” highway a no go

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    By ELISA BALL

    Governor Mike Leavitt’s proposal for ‘Legacy Highway’is creating a stir among Utah environmentalists.

    The proposal of Legacy Project would include a new six lane divided freeway that would extend from North Ogden to Nephi along the west side of Utah Lake, up 5600 West in Salt Lake Valley to The Great Salt Lake.

    Currently there are no alternatives to I-15 in Davis County. An alternative route would free up congestion caused by accidents, construction, or weather related problems that may occur on I-15.

    The name, Legacy Project, was chosen as a constant reminder that “quality of life is our heritage in Utah, and it must also be our ‘legacy,'” said Leavitt.

    “As Utah continues to grow, the need for an alternate route through our busiest area becomes apparent. This is not just about making room for cars, it’s also about shaping our state for the future. It’s about looking ahead to preserve the quality of our lives in Utah. This is a big picture, long term proposal.”

    How to finance the multi-billion dollar Legacy has not been determined. The Utah Legislature established a ten-year financing plan for highway construction at the December 1996 Growth Summit meeting. The state plans to spend $3.5 billion on roads during this time period. Legacy Project will have to compete with other road construction projects for funding. It is likely that every section of the highway will be a different financial recipe.

    Environmental concerns may stop the Legacy Project from happening. If Leavitt’s proposal is approved, acres of wetland refuge for over 3 million migratory ducks would be wiped out. Several dairy, cattle and crop farmers would be forced to move. Increased traffic and combustion would make it hard for Utah to meet current air quality standards.

    “What happens when I-15 is doubled, and then we get another six lanes of Legacy? With 18 lanes of north/south traffic, there is no way we will meet these standards,” said Marc Heileson, Conservation Organizer for Sierra Club.

    Sierra Club’s main concern is the development spread a new highway would bring. Highways tend to be a catalyst for suburban growth. “Wherever there are freeways there are strip malls, gas stations, motels, and fast food restaurants. This ugly suburban sprawl will eat up some of Utah’s most fertile, productive farm lands,” said Heileson.

    “Most people live east of I-15. Legacy Highway would be out of the way for most residents. If they make it a toll road, which rumor has, no one will even use it,” said Marcus Burton, a junior studying public relations who has grown up in the Salt Lake Valley.

    Groups including the Sierra Club, Friends of Salt Lake, Future Moves, Nature Conservancy, Century Farms and BYU EcoResponse Club will meet at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday at 11 a.m. for a rally to promote alternate solutions for Utah’s growth and transportation issues.

    “We can’t follow the bad example set by Los Angeles. We need real solutions to our growth and transportation problems. We just can’t build freeways and destroy our wetlands and farmlands for this unplanned, ugly suburban sprawl,” said Marc Heileson, Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club.

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