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Editorial: UDOT right to slow development of West Davis Corridor

Published November 2, 2013 1:01 am

West Davis delay is good news
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

The Utah Department of Transportation may not have moved that far, yet. But word the other day that it has pushed back the schedule on planning out the proposed West Davis Corridor freeway may be the first step to the first step.

The problem that UDOT has, of course, is an addiction to laying pavement, in any direction, at any cost. In this it is enabled by, well, nearly all the rest of us, who like to be able to hop in our cars and drive in whatever direction for just about any reason.

At the same time, though, more and more of us regular Utah citizens are more and more concerned about how the unquenchable desire for more miles of highway is having a very negative impact on our quality of life.

It's not just hours spent stuck in traffic. That's pretty bad, but individuals can choose to avoid it by living close to where they work or, when it is a practical option, taking public transit.

No, the real concern is the environmental damage done by feeding our appetite for highway driving. Those are hazards that place the entire community at risk, even households where nobody commutes long distances or even drives a car.

Specifically in the case of the proposed West Davis Corridor, the environmental risk could involve some serious damage to the fragile wetlands near the Great Salt Lake. Wetlands are not just cozy homes for migratory birds. They are key components in the natural cycle that provides a livable environment for all creatures, particularly the filtering of water.

More generally, any act of government that encourages more people to drive more cars more miles creates a force that draws more fossil fuels out of the ground and pushes more greenhouse and other polluting gases into our atmosphere. This is bad news anywhere. It is particularly risky in northern Utah, where the frequent inversions along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley trap car exhausts and cause serious health risks.

Technically, all UDOT has done with the West Davis Corridor is delay for about half a year its timetable in getting federal approval for the highway that would basically be an extension of Legacy Highway, itself initially a controversial and environmentally questionable project.

Officials said the reason for the delay was to allow more time for the public to comment on the plans, and more time for the department to properly consider those comments.

The hope is that UDOT's final decision will be to scrap the project altogether in favor of a plan called the Shared Solution. That's a plan to end the string of freeway building and instead improve normal streets and mass transit options so that the highway isn't built, not because activists stopped it but because we figured out we didn't need it.

With UDOT taking more time to consider its options, the chances that it would come to exactly that conclusion are, happily, enhanced.