John Hollenhorst ReportingWednesday we told you about the bad air problem during temperature inversions in Cache Valley. Well, it's inspired a radical new plan unlike any in the country. It's completely voluntary, but under certain circumstances it could actually make driving illegal.
From an air quality point of view, Logan has good days and bad days. Since he's the mayor, Doug Thompson wants you to know the good days outnumber the bad year-round.
Doug Thompson, Logan Mayor: “Fifteen bad days, 350 good days.”
This day is a Green day. Front page notices are part of the state's most aggressive clean-air program.
Doug Thompson: "When we have a bad day, it's bad. It's not healthy to be outside. I have asthma. And I notice it immediately."
Cache Valley is trying to make a religion out of reduced driving. Signs warn drivers on bad days. That's helped boost carpooling and rider-ship on buses, which are free. Traffic lights were synchronized last year. Local officials hope to avoid a federally mandated emission testing program for cars, so they've come up with their own variation.
Doug Thompson: "And it's voluntary. And if they have their car tested and it passes, they'd be given a sticker of some sort. That will identify them as being a clean-burning car. On a really bad day, those cars would be allowed to drive. The others would not be allowed to drive."
Although officials emphasize the voluntary nature of the program, it does have a pretty strong kick. This would apparently be the first community in the nation to make it illegal to drive certain cars on certain days.
The idea is to give drivers a choice. Fix up that old clunker and get it inspected or leave it in the garage on really bad air days. If you take it out without a sticker, you'll pay the consequences.
Doug Thompson: “They could get a ticket and it would not be a pleasant one.”
Lloyd Berentzen, Bear River Health Dept.: "We think maybe 75 dollars for the first offense. But we'd probably do some warnings and so forth. We really want to encourage more the cooperation than have this become a punitive program."
Zak James, Logan Resident: “I would get it inspected.”
Steve Robb, Smithfield Resident: “And the way the air quality is, I’d prefer to do my part, so it helps it out for the future.”
Officials hope that on the worst days they can cut driving in half. The Mayor says he thinks Cache Valley can avoid a clean-air crackdown by federal officials because they're highly supportive of the plan. If the Cache County Council approves, it could be in place when the inversion season kicks in next winter.