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Opposition delays bill to rename highways for Mike Leavitt

Published February 28, 2013 2:02 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A move to rename the Legacy Parkway and the Mountain View Corridor highways for former Gov. Mike Leavitt ran into a roadblock Thursday amid opposition from Davis County officials, conservative taxpayer groups and environmentalists.

So Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, former mayor of that Davis County city, persuaded the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee to delay votes on SB177 until more of its members are present another day to hear and debate the controversy.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, proposed the bill to rename the highways as the Leavitt Legacy Parkway and the Leavitt Mountain View Parkway. He said it would be an appropriate honor for Leavitt, who envisioned a west-side highway system from Brigham City to Santaquin — and the two highways are part of that.

"Without his leadership , the corridor would not have been built —  the controversy was that significant," Reid said about fights with environmental groups, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Natalie Gochnour, a longtime aide to Leavitt both when he was governor and a presidential Cabinet member, noted this year is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of his service as governor. "He took giant steps toward a more prosperous future for our state. We have a chance to say thank you."

But Davis County officials say their residents are used to the Legacy Parkway name, and don't want it changed.

Woods Cross City Administrator Gary Uresk said Leavitt himself gave it the Legacy name to honor pioneers and others who built the area. "Honor Governor Leavitt by keeping the name Legacy — no more, no less — the name he gave to it."

Davis County Commissioner John Petroff said the county has named other facilities and developments with the Legacy name, and want it left alone.

Ron Mortensen with Citizens for Tax Fairness said most citizens do not want the state to add politicians' names to highways. Dan Deuel, with the conservative Weber 9/12 Project, noted that Leavitt raised state gasoline taxes to help pay for the Legacy Parkway, and suggested renaming the tax as "Michael Leavitt Commemorative Motor Fuel Tax."

The Sierra Club also sent emails to its members urging them to oppose the name change, saying battles with Leavitt over the highway led to federal lawsuits. Later, it was Gov. Jon Huntsman who worked out compromises with environmental groups that allowed the parkway to proceed.

Roger Borgenicht with Utahns for Better Transportation also opposed renaming the Mountain View Corridor as a "parkway." He said plans call for it to be a full freeway eventually, while parkways usually limit commercial development around them.

ldavidson@sltrib.com