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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) -- A prospective member of a federal board determining military base closures said Hill Air Force Base could be harmed by environmentalists' efforts to block a highway near the facility.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen told the Deseret Morning News that the lack of a west-side highway was one of the base's few black marks in the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure process.
"We argued, 'Well, we're going to build something. We're going to call it the West Davis Highway,"' Hansen said of the '95 BRAC. "We said, 'Oh, it's going to come.' We didn't know the Sierra Club would screw it up."
Hansen spent 22 years on the House Armed Services Committee and was chairman of the House Resources Committee when he retired in 2002, long fighting for the base's interests. The Utah Republican was recommended to serve on the committee in the upcoming round of closures by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. President Bush will nominate the nine-member BRAC commission on or before March 15.
The Sierra Club, which filed a lawsuit blocking construction of the Legacy Highway, has proposed an alternate transit plan that would include bus and light rail lines.
"It's pretty tough to believe that a highway in south Davis County would affect a military base," said Marc Heileson, regional representative for the Sierra Club.
Utah Department of Transportation officials say Legacy could cost as much as $680 million to build. The 14-mile highway would run from I-215 in North Salt Lake to Farmington along the eastern edge of the Great Salt Lake.
Transportation access to military bases is just one issue BRAC commissioners must weigh when deciding which base to close, Hansen said. During the 1995 BRAC rounds, the base closure commission's staff pointed out that Hill Air Force Base had higher rankings in all categories than the other four air logistics centers. The lack of an I-15 alternative was one of few negative points in the base's ranking.
Davis County Commissioner Dannie McConkie said building the Legacy Parkway is a matter of national security.
"It's for not only movement of people, but movement of military machines and materials to ensure this nation's secure safety," McConkie said. "We've always worried about having an alternative way to get from the north to the south end of Davis County."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said this round of closures is the "mother of all BRACs." In total, 425 bases could be closed or scaled back, which could save $7 billion annually, the Defense Department reported.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)