Meeting this week's deadline for compliance with state and federal air quality standards in Provo has city officials holding their breaths.
"We are hoping they (the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials) will see we've done everything we possibly could have done on time with the exception of the interconnect," Mayor Joe Jenkins said. "We think we will be all right. There is a chance we may even meet it."Under a state implementation plan, the city is required to decrease carbon monoxide emissions by doing several things. This includes the interconnect project - a plan to synchronize traffic signals on various streets throughout the city.
Computerized signals have already been installed at Second West, Fifth West and 12th North. The University Avenue interconnect has not been installed yet because UDOT plans to tear up the road next year, Jenkins said. By waiting to install the equipment, the city will save $75,000.
"We appealed to the state and they will allow an extension to put the interconnect in," Jenkins said. "They will look at the city next year and if the new road still doesn't do it, they'll have to redo the state implementation plan."
The EPA has not said yet that the city is in compliance, but the mayor said EPA's big concern right now is the ozone problem and "we don't have an ozone problem, only a carbon monoxide problem."
If the city's efforts do not satisfy the EPA, sanctions could be imposed, but the mayor is still optimistic. Construction was banned in Los Angeles after the city failed to comply with ozone and carbon monoxide standards.
Provo has also tried to decrease pollution by eliminating parking in the right turn lanes on University Avenue and on Fifth West. There is no parking on Second West or on 1230 North and speed limits have been increased on University Avenue and Ninth East to increase the traffic flow.
The city also requires state emissions tests for vehicles. With the cooperation of Brigham Young University, this year the city is requiring students to meet state inspection and maintenance requirements if they have not done so previously.
"We did everything and we are still not in compliance," Jenkins said. "We told them we were willing to do other things, but we still did not meet the deadline."
The mayor said the carbon monoxide pollution problem is caused by more than just the traffic patterns. Because the city is situated at the foot of a mountain, there is no air flow to the east.
"Breezes blow everything out to the lake in the morning and then it reverses and goes up the canyon in the evening. But it really just picks up the stuff and blows it back into city. It pockets there against the mountain. That's an environmental factor we have no control over."
According to a 1987 study by the EPA, the Provo/Orem area was the fourth worst among U.S. cities exceeding carbon monoxide standards.