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Gov. Gary Herbert says it's premature to name southern Utah highway after Trump

SALT LAKE CITY — Though Gov. Gary Herbert appreciates some of what President Donald Trump has done, he said it might be too early to name a southern Utah highway after him.

"It’s a little premature to me from the standpoint of doing it," he said Tuesday.

Herbert said roads and buildings in Utah are typically named for people who are no longer in office or have died, listing Bangerter Highway, James V. Hansen Highway and Matheson Courthouse as examples.

The governor said he hasn't been out front on the proposal but wouldn't say whether he would veto the bill if it rolls across his desk.

"I recognize the zeal and enthusiasm that some have for Donald J. Trump," adding he shares that enthusiasm when it comes to states' rights and the president surrounding himself with former governors.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, considers Trump a hero and wants to rename hundreds of miles of roads the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.

HB481, which awaits a vote in the House, would replace the Utah National Parks Highway, taking in stretches of U.S. 89, I-15 and U.S. 191, as well as parts of southern Utah roads that trace the edges of some of Utah's national parks. It carries a $124,000 price tag to change 62 roads signs on the route.

"It's going," Noel said of the legislation Tuesday.

Noel sees the designation as a thank you to the president for shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He called Trump a "champion" for public lands and national parks, and said he deserves credit for what he's done for Utah.

Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, hopes to derail the proposal on the House floor. She has a substitute bill to rename the route the Jon M. Huntsman Sr. Memorial Utah National Parks Highway. The billionaire industrialist/philanthropist died last month.

Noel's bill has drawn widespread criticism from Democrats and environmental groups, and just as much support from rural county commissioners and some young conservative Republicans.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, has another designation in mind should the bill reach the Senate. He said he'll present an amendment to name the frontage road along the Trump highway the "Stormy Daniels rampway."

Daniels is a former porn star to whom Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly paid $130,000 to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump.

"(Dabakis) wants to add that to the bill?" Noel said.

Herbert said he hadn't heard about that, but it "sounds like a joke."

Dabakis told reporters he's getting calls from a number of major media outlets, including the New York Times, about the Trump designation and his proposal.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Senate Republicans haven't talked about the proposed Trump highway yet and asked if this was the "big, long road" through the state's national parks.

Told it was, Niederhauser said, "I can see naming a highway as Donald Trump Highway. I think it makes it more difficult the more roads you put into that policy."

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Trump has done more for hunters, fishermen and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts "than any other president." He said the highway designation would help economic development and bring tourists to the state.

"I don't think so," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche