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John Daley ReportingThe state's transportation agency and opponents of the long-stalled Legacy Highway are giving lip service to compromise while they steer toward a collision. Their proposals remain far apart as the project's costs continue to escalate.
The 14-mile road has yet to be built. UDOT officials were up on Capitol Hill today blaming opponents for the delay and increased costs, and promising they'll get the job right this time, something a federal court said they didn't do the last time.
Legacy would connect Davis County with Salt Lake. The new price tag for the project is nearly 700 million dollars, up 220 million since it stalled in court. Today on Capitol Hill project leaders brought lawmakers those sobering numbers and an update on the road's uncertain future.
Federal law protects the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake. A federal appeals court stopped the road, saying UDOT's original plan failed to adequately consider options in design and location and its impact on wetlands, and failed to include mass transit.
UDOT officials say their new proposal addresses all the court's concerns, but say the biggest sticking point is possible litigation from conservationists.
John Njord, UDOT Executive Director: "It's this looming threat of a lawsuit. This threat of a lawsuit means the difference between 217 million dollars and 292 million dollars. That's a heck of a lot of money."
The Sierra Club says it has a viable alternative--extending Redwood Road north to connect to U.S. 89 in Centerville.
Marc Heileson, Sierra Club: “It provides the transportation need, but protects the environment.”
Transportation planners are exploring Redwood, but believe it won't be enough and the main Legacy Parkway route must be built.
John Njord, UDOT Executive Director: "We have to, we have to find middle ground. This facility is so critically needed. It was not needed today, it was needed five years ago. And five years from now I'm really concerned what traffic is going to be like out here if we don't have this thing in place."
Marc Heileson, Sierra Club: "It's always a last resort to have to go to the court system. That's something the Sierra Club never wants to do, but the smart growth alternative is a way we see to stay out of court."
The two sides keep talking, but barring a breakthrough it may once again be the courts which ultimately decide.