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UDOT expects Legacy work to start soon

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Deseret Morning News graphic

A March construction date for the Legacy Parkway looks to be a more of a reality.

Early Monday, the Utah Department of Transportation received the second of two federal approvals needed to begin construction of the 14-mile roadway. Wednesday, the agency plans to go to U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City and file a motion to lift a court-ordered halt on construction issued four years ago.

A ruling could take several weeks, but UDOT hopes to break ground on the project in March, said spokesman Tom Hudachko.

"We are moving forward with a project that is going to meet a very significant transportation need," he said. "It's going to do so in an environmentally friendly way, and it's going to benefit all the communities out there on the corridor."

Hudachko said he anticipates no challenges to stop a judge from lifting the injunction on Legacy. Both the state and plaintiffs in the suit that halted construction of Legacy are in agreement that the road should be built, said Marc Heileson, regional representative for the Sierra Club.

"As long as everyone keeps the deal, I don't think there's anything stopping us," said Heileson.

In November, the state signed a settlement agreement with plaintiffs and effectively ended a decade-long battle over whether the road should be built. The settlement had several provisions, including a ban on truck traffic, speed limits set at 55 mph, funding for mass transit and a requirement that the road have "parkway features."

Since the settlement, a team of about 200 has been redesigning plans for Legacy to fit with the provisions. Changes have been made to the road's right of way so that it "meanders" around wetland areas. Artistic design elements have been added to the road's entrance, and work has been done to incorporate several trail plans around the roadway.

Preliminary design plans also show about 17 small "neighborhood" trailheads bordering the road. Larger trailheads with parking areas are also planned. Near Farmington, UDOT hopes to build a 45-foot tower for people using the trails to observe nature around the Great Salt Lake.

John Thomas, Legacy project manager, said the goal of the changes is to make Legacy look and feel different than driving on I-15 or I-80. UDOT has also worked to ensure the road is "integrated" with communities, he said.

"It's a different psychology," Thomas said. "One of the key features we keep coming back to is a pastoral driving experience that for motorists is a 15-minute reprieve."

When built, Legacy will stretch 14 miles from North Salt Lake to Farmington. It will border five Davis County cities, all of which will have access to trails on the east and west sides of the road.

This weekend, UDOT will put out what's called an "early action" bid package to hire a contractor for preliminary work on the road. This summer, a bid will be put out for a second contractor to do the main construction of the road. Construction will likely be broken into three segments, Thomas said.

UDOT anticipates that Legacy will be open for traffic in the fall of 2008. Hudachko said the agency has received no "red flags" that would indicate another party will sue to stop construction of the road.

The original plaintiffs that sued are barred from taking legal action again under provisions of November's settlement agreement. They are, however, watching and reviewing design plans for Legacy.

"We still think it's just a win-win," said Heileson. "We look at how it started as a massive freeway that induced sprawl and now it's turned into a redesigned parkway with a huge nature preserve and full emphasis on mass transit options."

For more information about Legacy and the approval received Monday, log on to www.udot.utah.gov.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com