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Legacy Parkway Cost Ballooned With Court-Ordered Delays

Legacy Parkway Cost Ballooned With Court-Ordered Delays

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- At $49 million a mile, the Legacy Parkway won't be the most expensive highway ever built.

It won't be the cheapest, either, and Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C., group that calls itself a leading critic of highway boondoggles, ranks Legacy No. 3 on its list of America's most wasteful road projects.

The group evaluated the full length of a proposed 120-mile Legacy Highway running along the Wasatch Front from Brigham City to Nephi, but state road builders have spent years stymied on the first leg of the project, a parkway across Great Salt Lake marshlands from Farmington to Salt Lake City.

The original bid to construct four-lane Legacy Parkway was $451 million in 2001, but court-ordered delays and additional environmental studies have pushed the total to $689 million. All for a 14-mile road that would run roughly parallel to Interstate 15.

Proponents say the parkway will relieve I-15 congestion for Davis County commuters who work in Salt Lake City.

"In the real world, when people are faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-15, the option of being able to go on Legacy will be extremely beneficial," state Sen. Ed Mayne said Friday by cell phone from the stretch of highway he was complaining about.

Mayne, D-West Valley City, is among the Utah legislators trying to push through a settlement with environmental groups that got a federal appeals court in 2002 to order a more complete environmental study of Legacy Parkway.

The champion of expensive highways was the $14.6 billion Big Dig, which buried Interstate 93 under downtown Boston and involved a new bridge and tunnel over a 7.5-mile-long corridor. That worked out to about $1.9 billion a mile.

The most expensive surface road could be Maryland's proposed 18-mile "Inter-County Connector," which at a low estimate of $94 million a mile would join a spider web of highways around Washington, D.C.

Legacy Parkway at $49 million a mile is "still pretty outrageous," said Erich Zimmermann, a senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Just because there are other roads more expensive, doesn't mean it isn't expensive."

Zimmermann said Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" deserved to be singled out for shame. The $223 million two-bridge project will span a quarter-mile channel of water between Ketchikan and an airport now served by ferry and water taxi.

The taxpayer group's report, "Road to Ruin," examined 27 proposed road projects that are almost certain to be awarded federal funding, some from a massive highway bill signed by President Bush in August.

Together with Friends of the Earth, another lobby group, Taxpayers for Common Sense singled out 10 of those projects as the most wasteful.

They criticized the $2.8 billion Legacy Highway as redundant because it would run almost in tandem with Interstate 15. In some places the highways would be less than a mile apart.

Critics say commuter rail is a better option, but Mayne said commuters can't wait.

"I won't be caught up north" during rush hours on I-15, he said. "It's terrible, and the people up here need relief, Legacy's the answer and the clock is ticking."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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