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News specialist John Daley reporting
The Legacy Highway project is on its way to being placed on a federal fast-track, and environmental groups are saying, 'wait just a minute.'
Highway opponents last week met with the Utah Department of Transportation to discuss alternatives to the highway, and are surprised to find out the state may not be looking at an alternative.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court stopped the project. The judges said the agencies involved would have to go back and consider alternatives to building the roadway.
Now, opponents wonder, are state road builders listening?
Legacy Highway bulldozers and road graders have been silent since September, when a three-judge panel shut the project down.
The 10th Circuit Court ruled that state road builders never considered alternatives to a route that would have run through wetlands in western Davis County.
The court called on UDOT to prepare a new environmental impact statement, or revise the old one to study all alternatives.
Now, groups fighting the road say they were blindsided at the news. UDOT asked the feds to put the road on a federal list of expedited projects. Just last week the groups met with UDOT to discuss alternatives.
"I'm very concerned that this will be a problem, that they are really not taking the court remand of the EIS seriously," says Roger Borgenicht with Utahns for Better Transportation.
President Bush created the environmental stewardship and streamlined decision-making process to speed up critical transportation projects.
But a spokesman for UDOT says the state is NOT trying to streamline the process on Legacy -- it asked Legacy be put on the list in case federal agencies have a disagreement later on.
"We're still very interested and very committed to an unbiased look at everything the court has told us to take a look at," says Tom Hudachko with UDOT.
When asked if he understands how the other side might not regard it that way, Hudachko replied: "Well, streamline is a word that maybe, its actual meaning, its literal meaning is construed a little differently by what people think it means. And some people might hear the word streamline and think of those words, but again it's not expediting, it's not fast-tracking."
Legacy opponents say they hope this is not a sign UDOT plans to resist the federal court order.
"If UDOT is trying to take shortcuts once again, then they are only going to get this project further and further bogged down," Borgenicht says.
Final word on whether Legacy will be placed on that federal list is expected to be announced sometime this month.