Community, Environmental Politics, Urban Planning
A legacy worth keeping
Legacy Parkway residents are fighting to protect a cherished Utah roadway. In the face of opposing forces they’re not giving up.
When North Salt Lake resident Angie Keeton recently learned that large trucks could soon be allowed on Legacy Parkway, a road located about 800 feet from her home in the city’s Foxboro neighborhood, she freaked out. Construction of homes in the Foxboro subdivision began in 2003, before Legacy was built. Today Foxboro has expanded along the parkway and its houses are home to hundreds of families.
Keeton and her husband Seth had been following news reports about a plan by the State of Utah to build an “inland port“ in Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant near the Salt Lake International Airport. That is how they learned that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) had always intended for this naturescaped 14-mile stretch of 55mph road, between I-215 at the south end and Farmington at the north, to become just another freeway.
News on the inland port project included a reminder that a longtime ban on large trucks on Legacy Parkway was due to expire in January 2020. The ban was part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed and won by environmental groups against UDOT in 2005 before road construction began.
Now it seemed that allowing large trucks on Legacy could be important to the success of the inland port because of its direct route through south Davis County to I-215 and I-80 out to the port’s site.
Keeton checked in with her neighbors through Facebook and found that roughly 90% of them were not aware of the plan to eventually allow trucks. Concerns were that allowing trucks and the accompanying higher speed limit would forever degrade the quality of life enjoyed by the many families who live along the parkway, exacerbating the already poor air quality, adding noise pollution, and increasing safety concerns.
She got to work and organized a public meeting for residents, Davis County officials and other interested community members to learn more. A panel of five people, including Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, and Jason Davis, UDOT’s deputy director of operations and maintenance, listened to the concerns of the more than 250 residents who showed up for the meeting at Foxboro Elementary (whose fenceline borders the road) on January 16.
At one point, Rep. Ballard asked those opposed to allowing trucks on Legacy to stand. Every person but one stood up. Residents reported over and over again that when they had bought their homes, no one told them large trucks could be allowed on Legacy in the future.
Sen. Weiler had agreed prior to the public meeting to run a bill during the current legislative session to keep the truck ban in place. When it failed in the Senate Transportation Committee, Rep. Ballard submitted a similar bill in the House—H.B. 339, which asks for the ban to be retained for five years to allow time to explore options and for residents to figure out their future. The mayors and city councils of Farmington, Woods Cross, North Salt Lake and Centerville have signed resolutions to keep the truck ban in place and the Davis County Council of Governments added its support on February 20.
Conflicts of interest
It’s no surprise to learn that several Utah legislators are affiliated with or receive donations from the very businesses that would benefit from opening the road to large trucks, including the trucking industry itself. Legislators’ potential conflicts of interest are not part of the discussion.
A row of 16 more houses is under construction in Shamrock Estates near Foxboro. “They are building up to the edge of the Legacy Trail, just 150 feet from the roadway,” says Keeton. She wonders if developers and realtors will be transparent and properly advise new buyers that the parkway could become a freeway.
Keeton is also concerned about the taxpayers’ investment that went into creating and protecting the parkway in the first place. “It’s unique. Legacy was a smart solution to growth and transportation issues that took into account the space around it and how valuable it is to residents and commuters alike. Legacy Parkway, with its Legacy Trail and Legacy Nature Preserve, has set a new precedent for how people want to live here and in the state. It’s a great success that should not be thrown away.”
“If the projected environmental impact of allowing trucks on Legacy when it opened justified a temporary ban, what has changed in the 10 years since to justify lifting the ban? “ Sen. Ballard wrote on February 24. “The health risks and needs of the community are far more important than satisfying the desires of the trucking lobby. The ban needs to be extended.”
Ann Floor is co-chair of Utahns for Better Transportation.
Editor’s Note: On February 25, the bill the extend the ban lost by one vote. Residents say they are still not giving up. To learn what happens next, visit www.savelegacyparkway.org/
Planners and road builders can be proud of the community amenity they created in Legacy.
It was the result of an agreement brokered by then-Governor Jon Huntsman between conservation groups and UDOT.
Using what the industry calls “context sensitive design,” where roadway development practices are flexible and sensitive to community values, the Legacy Parkway provides a civilized, relaxing and enjoyable driving experience. Features include a meandering road (two lanes each way), slower speeds (55 miles per hour), no bill boards, dark sky lighting and noise-reducing pavement. A pedestrian and bike trail parallel to the road encourage healthy outdoor activity, and the Legacy Nature Preserve provides spectacular and unimpeded views to the west. Also as part of the plan, Front-Runner was up and running prior to road construction.
Legacy Parkway opened September 13, 2008, with Governor Huntsman leading out on his Harley as a parade of bikes, cars, and (small) trucks followed him onto the road.