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AIR-QUALITY REGULATIONS STIR FEARS OF ROUGH ROADS AHEAD

SHARE AIR-QUALITY REGULATIONS STIR FEARS OF ROUGH ROADS AHEAD

While state officials are worried that violations of federal clean-air requirements could mean the loss of federal highway money, local governments are just as worried that some projects may not even qualify for funding because of the violations.

Members of the Salt Lake County Council of Governments meeting this week were told unless environmental reviews for several road projects are completed by Nov. 15, they aren't likely to be included as part of a five-year Wasatch Front transportation plan.That's because the EPA will allow projects that meet that deadline to be "grandfathered" under air-quality parameters.

Doug Hattery, with the Wasatch Front Regional Council, said council staff won't be able to guarantee road projects that don't meet the deadline will conform with air-quality standards. Some projects will be allowed to proceed because they are exempt from conforming with air-quality standards because they are related to safety or mass transit.

"Our feeling is we have enough projects which are exempt or grandfathered to keep us busy the next year or so," Hattery said. "In a couple of years it is going to hit if we can't get the air-quality issues resolved."

At risk are some 15 road projects in Salt Lake and Davis counties. Included on the list of projects in question are:

- Redwood Road widening from 7800 South to 9000 South.

- Sandy's and Salt Lake County's planned widening of 2000 East from Bengal Boulevard to 9400 South.

- 900 West reconstruction in Salt Lake City.

- 9000 South reconstruction from the West Valley Highway to Redwood Road in West Jordan

- 9000 South reconstruction in Sandy from 1300 East to 2100 East.

One project that is already doomed or delayed because they won't pass environmental muster by November is a proposal to add lanes to I-15 in each direction from I-215 to 2600 South in Bountiful. The area is already a site of gridlock each workday morning and afternoon.

Construction on U.S. 89 in Davis County will also be delayed.

Another project that is in question is the 2000 East construction project in Sandy. While a U.S. House committee appropriated $6 million for the project in May, Hattery said the Nov. 15 environmental deadline and the fact the project wasn't included in a local government plan last year, may keep the money from flowing.

Along with a federal lawsuit filed by the state aimed at softening the EPA's stand on state air-quality violations, Hattery said regional planners, the Utah Department of Transportation and state Air Quality officials are hoping to solve some of the air-quality violation issues. However, planners and local officials worry they may go a few years without being able to proceed on several critical road projects.