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Push to extend Legacy Parkway's 15-year truck ban falters in Senate committee

Lawmakers who voted against bill have ties to Utah Inland Port Authority

SALT LAKE CITY — In a vote that outraged residents — even leaving some in tears — a Senate panel on Thursday slammed the door on a bill that would extend the sunset on a longstanding ban on trucks on a scenic byway in Davis County.

"Way to listen to the people," one man shouted in anger after the vote.

"Guess I'll be selling my house now," another woman shouted.

Legacy Parkway is a more than 11-mile stretch known for its quiet, meandering route near wetlands, wildlife and fields of blooming sunflowers in the summertime. But as it stands now, trucks of all sizes will be cleared to bellow down the highway starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Traffic on moves along the Legacy Parkway in Davis County on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.
Traffic on moves along the Legacy Parkway in Davis County on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

That's when the 15-year truck ban in Utah law expires. The ban was drafted in a settlement that ended lawsuits filed when environmental groups tried years ago to stop the freeway from being built in the first place.

The 4-1 vote by the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee came after more than an hour of emotional testimony from residents pleading for support of SB119, a bill that would push the sunset out 2 1/2 years to July 1, 2022, meant to give impacted cities more time to prepare for the change.

It also came during a time when legislative heavyweights are pushing hard to create the Utah Inland Port — a global trade hub in about 16,000 acres of northwest Salt Lake City expected to be the largest economic development project in Utah history. Legacy Parkway has been eyed to be a key route for trucks coming and going to the port.

Several lawmakers who voted down the bill Thursday have ties to the port.

Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, sits as a board member on the Utah Inland Port Authority. Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, was the Senate appointee on the board before he resigned for a potential conflict of interest because he owned some property within the port authority's boundaries. Ipson also owns the trucking company, DATS Trucking Inc.

Deeda Seed, a former Salt Lake City Councilwoman and one of the port's loudest critics called Thursday's vote "shocking," "awful," and "heartbreaking."

"This is the first community that's being sacrificed to the concept of the proposed inland port," she said. "What we saw was a demonstration of the voracious appetite of the trucking industry in Utah."

Bill supporters wore yellow shirts and flowers pinned to their chests to resemble Legacy Parkway's characteristic sunflower fields. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, wore a yellow tie.

Traffic on moves along the Legacy Parkway in Davis County on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.
Traffic on moves along the Legacy Parkway in Davis County on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Among the residents was Terry Wilks, who said she inherited her grandfather's home in West Bountiful where her family has lived since 1878. She said she makes the Legacy Parkway trip frequently, "and I have to say, it is the most calm, relaxing drive of any place in Utah."

"When you drive it, you kind of slow down, you curve. The roads are quiet. You look to the east and see a striking view of the mountains, and when you look to the west you see sunsets of golden, blue, orange, red and they reach clear to the lake," she said.

Other residents said they bought their homes in the area with no clue the truck ban was set to sunset in 2020.

Angie Keeton, of North Salt Lake, said her home sits about 800 feet from Legacy Parkway. She said she bought her home just three years ago, but didn't learn the truck ban would expire until just six weeks ago because of reporting on the Utah Inland Port Authority.

"Between the mosquitos and refineries, we've made a community," Keeton said. "You didn't plan to plant the sunflowers, but someone planted them for us. They grew, they thrived, and they're beautiful, just like the parkway itself. Please don't throw them … and our communities away. Please give us time to find a better way."

But Rick Clasby, executive director of the Utah Trucking Association, urged lawmakers to let the sunset stand, noting his organization was "disturbed" by the ban in the first place.

"We backed away from that fight in the interest of opening that highway, knowing that highway was necessary for the future of the state of Utah," Clasby said. "Today we feel like that was a deal made that should be kept."

Clasby said Utah's economy is "based on trucking" and "nothing is more harmful to the trucking industry than congestion or delay."

"We expect that deal be honored," he said.

Lawmakers' votes condemning the sunset extension came after Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, expressed frustration with the bill's timing and the precedent it could set for other Utah freeways.

"I'm really struggling with this bill," he said. "You've had a long time to work on this. "There honestly isn't a community out there that lives next to a freeway that doesn't experience the exact same issues. If we allow this we're setting a very dangerous precedent across the state."

Though residents walked away from the meeting dejected, Weiler, the bill's sponsor, didn't rule out attempts to bring the bill back from the dead. He said "time will tell" if he can revive it.

"I'll keep on talking to them and see if there is a viable path," he said.