Legal woes for Legacy Parkway

 

UTAH

After the federal government signed off on the construction of a 14-mile highway along Utah's Wasatch Front in early January, a coalition of environmentalists and smart-growth advocates, including Salt Lake City's controversial Democratic mayor, filed two separate lawsuits.

Utahns for Better Transportation contends that the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act by approving the four-lane Legacy Parkway. The Sierra Club filed a second lawsuit against the agencies alleging violations of the Clean Air Act.

Construction of the $423 million parkway, which would run west of Interstate 15 along the edge of the Great Salt Lake from Farmington to Salt Lake City, is slated to begin this spring (HCN, 9/25/00: A highway hits a speed bump). It's the first phase of a proposed 130-mile highway paralleling the Wasatch Front.

Besides concerns over the destruction of 114 acres of wetlands and increased sprawl and air pollution, opponents say the highway's planners failed to consider commuter rail as a viable alternative.

Legacy supporters, including Utah's Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt, and a host of state and local officials from Davis and Salt Lake counties, call the lawsuit frivolous. They say a two-pronged approach involving mass transit and another highway is needed to solve the booming Wasatch Front's traffic woes.

Supporters are also blasting Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for joining one of the lawsuits. The Salt Lake City Council has distanced itself from Anderson on the issue, and Leavitt calls the mayor's participation "a bad decision."

In response, Anderson told the Salt Lake Tribune, "We need leadership on a state, county and local level that will commit itself to mass transit first and more highways as absolutely the last resort."