It's ended.

After a contentious, four-year court fight, state officials can say with authority that "nothing stands in the way" of work beginning on the Legacy Parkway this summer.

Late Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued an order granting a motion to lift the injunction placed on Legacy in 2001. "Upon review of the motion and the file, the injunction . . . is dissolved," the order read.

Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation learned Wednesday that the injunction had been lifted. The order came much earlier than anticipated, said UDOT executive director John Njord. On Feb. 3, just 11 days prior to the Court of Appeals Decision, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins denied a motion by the state to lift the injunction on Legacy — forcing the state to go to the Court of Appeals and request it be lifted.

"I can't speculate why it moved so quickly, but it's clear that it was an easy decision for the court," Njord said. "I can't see anything stopping it now. Nothing stands in the way."

UDOT has planned a groundbreaking for March 2. Preliminary construction work is anticipated to begin this spring. In late June, heavy construction work is expected to begin.

Njord says the $685 million Legacy Parkway is the costliest road project ever launched in the state of Utah with exception of the pre-Olympic expansion of I-15 in Salt Lake County. "This is an enormous undertaking for us and we anticipate we will build just as rapidly as we can with the least amount of disruption as we can," Njord said.

Legacy is expected to open for traffic in late 2008. It is planned to stretch 14 miles from North Salt Lake to Farmington.

Davis County officials, state lawmakers and plaintiffs in the 2001 suit that halted construction of Legacy were all pleased with the expedited court order.

"It certainly brings closure to a long, frustrating process," said Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse. "It's one of those things where you're glad you're there, but you don't know how to react because you're used to living in a world waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm hopeful this is truly 'game on' without any further interruptions."

Davis County Commissioner Dannie McConkie said the long-awaited court order was "better than having a new baby." Mike Mower, chief of staff for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., said the governor was "very pleased."

"We're anxious to move forward and glad the court responded," Mower said.

For the past four months, a team of about 200 engineers, artists and planners have been redesigning plans for Legacy. Work on the redesign began in November, after the state signed a settlement agreement that effectively ended future litigation over the road.

The settlement had several provisions, including a ban on truck traffic, speed limits set a 55 mph and a requirement that "parkway features" be part of the roadway's design. John Thomas, Legacy project manager, said in an earlier interview that a parkway is something that evokes a "pastoral driving experience."

Several trailheads are planned around Legacy. The road has also been designed to enhance views of the adjoining Great Salt Lake. Complete design plans are anticipated to be unveiled during the groundbreaking, according to Njord.

Marc Heileson, regional representative for the Sierra Club, said he was pleased that the injunction on Legacy was lifted. The road, as redesigned, is a "win-win" for the state, he said.

"The 'Legacy Freeway' is dead and the Legacy Parkway will be built," said Heileson. "We're very happy with the outcome."


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com