Despite a state recommendation against banning semitrailer trucks in Provo Canyon, the Utah Transportation Commission hasn't made up its mind on the issue.
"This isn't the last rung on the ladder," commission chairman Sam Taylor said of the recommendation. "We anticipate holding more public hearings so people on all sides will have their day in court."Taylor's comments during a commission meeting Friday came as a relief to Utah County officials, who want to restrict truck traffic on U.S. 189 through Provo Canyon because of noise, safety and pollution from trucks in the canyon and on city streets. They questioned the thoroughness and accuracy of a study done by the Utah Department of Transportation, which found a truck ban unjustified.
"No matter what the statistics show, we are still impacted dramatically by noise and safety (concerns)" as large trucks using the canyon cruise through downtown Provo en route to I-15, Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, told the commission.
He compared it to rerouting semitrailer trucks onto Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City.
"Truck traffic has a negative impact on tourism," Tanner said.
UDOT's study, released Friday, concludes a truck ban would not improve air quality or safety on the canyon highway and would be a burden on truck drivers. The findings were based on a survey conducted in Provo Canyon in March and on department traffic and accident data.
But Provo mayor's representative Raylene Ireland said ongoing construction on University Avenue and in Provo Canyon during the survey could have skewed UDOT's findings. "I question if the figures will jump when the road is improved," she said.
Opponents to large rigs in Provo Canyon have proposed allowing only local trucks to use the road, and banning interstate truck traffic. But the UDOT study was based on banning all truck traffic from the scenic canyon road.
Assistant Attorney General Don Coleman advised the commission against singling out interstate trucks, unless it had specific evidence showing safety hazards of interstate truck traffic outweigh the impact on the interstate trucking business.
"You can discriminate, but it has to be founded on a rational, valid basis," Coleman said.
UDOT spokesman Kevin Beckstrom told the Deseret News that a specific study on interstate truck traffic could be done, if the commission were to request it.
Groups call study disappointing\ A representative for two groups that have lobbied the state to ban interstate trucks from Provo Canyon disagrees with the conclusion drawn in UDOT's truck study.
Julie Mack said the analysis of safety issues in UDOT's report is "absolutely not adequate" and she disagrees with the department's air quality findings. Other studies have shown that banning trucks would significantly benefit air quality in Utah County, she said.
Mack is co-chairwoman of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition and also represents a coalition of political, education, travel, business and health representatives who support a ban on interstate trucks.
"The citizens of this county are unified in wanting a ban on trucks that don't have a destination in our cities and are frustrated UDOT is not responding to our desires," Mack said.
The groups will continue to seek a truck ban, she said.
"It's frustrating because the governor stated publicly he thinks it is a good idea to pursue this (a ban) and political leaders and the community want it," she said. "UDOT seems to be the only holdout. That doesn't make sense to me."