A highway hits a speed bump

  Only one highway moves commuters south to Salt Lake City, squeezing cars between the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.


The Utah Department of Transportation wants to change that with its proposed $370 million Legacy Highway, a controversial 125-mile freeway that just hit a speed bump. On Sept. 5, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it had "remaining concerns' about the freeway that had to be addressed.


The agency is concerned that the lake's internationally recognized wetlands would be damaged by the proposed highway running parallel to I-15. The EPA, which has the power to veto the project, said the state had not selected the "least-damaging alternative," and it found the proposed "Legacy Nature Preserve" inadequate. Though it does not offer an alternative plan, the EPA recommends that the Army Corps of Engineers deny Utah a necessary federal permit to build in the wetlands until the state resolves these issues.


Environmentalists celebrated the announcement. "This is a crushing blow to the Legacy Highway," says Marc Heileson of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. He says the freeway would become a bonanza for developers who would further damage the area's wetlands.


The Department of Transportation isn't worried, though. As Carlos Braceras, who leads the Legacy Highway team, says, "These latest comments are reflections of how far the project has come," noting that the EPA has been actively involved in the project since early 1997. Braceras says the road is in its "fine-tuning stages."


* Tim Sullivan
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