Infrastructure & Environment

The Hushed Highway

Utah finds a sensitive way to build a road through a bird sanctuary.
by | November 2005
 

Utah's Legacy Parkway finally has gotten the green light.

The road, which will be built in Davis County near Salt Lake City, was first proposed in 2001 by then-Governor Mike Leavitt to alleviate traffic congestion on Interstate 15--a big headache in Davis County for years.

Until recently, legal challenges from conservation groups (because the 14-mile stretch of concrete was set to run through one of the world's most sensitive bird habitats) had forestalled construction. But now, thanks to a tentative agreement between the state and a coalition of conservation organizations, the commuter road will be built--tempered by some environmentally sensitive trade-offs.

"We are developing a parkway that will be different from anything we've ever done before," says John Thomas, director of the Legacy Parkway and Preserve.

Under the new agreement, the planned location of the road won't be changed but it will have a narrower "footprint" and be built with "quiet pavement" to dampen the noise. Trucks and billboards will be banned and the maximum speed limit on the roadway will be 55 mph.

The Utah Department of Transportation will give the local transit authority $2.5 million to develop an environmental impact statement evaluating a light rail or bus rapid transit system in south Davis County. The agreement also includes the purchase of 125 acres of Great Salt Lake wetlands west of the parkway that were slated for big-box commercial development. The land will be set aside as a nature preserve and managed by the Legacy Nature Preserve.

UDOT officials say the road could open to motorists by 2008.

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