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Editorial: UDOT would be wise to shelve West Davis highway

Published August 13, 2014 11:24 am

Put a halt to Davis highway plan.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Department of Transportation has made a wise decision by delaying, again, moves toward building the planned West Davis Corridor freeway.

It would be wiser still for UDOT to just come out and admit that the plan has so many deserved enemies, and so many serious flaws, that it should be shelved altogether, once and for all.

The West Davis Corridor is the increasingly unpopular, and always unwise, plan to extend the nearly-as-controversial Legacy Parkway from Farmington to Roy along the eastern side of the Great Salt Lake. While no final pathway has been settled on, any route state engineers would choose would sweep aside innocent homeowners and businesses, damage the vital wetlands that border the lake and, worst of all, act as an unneeded and unwise enabler of further urban sprawl in an area that is already growing quite rapidly, thank you.

Of course, the normal highway-department reflex reaction to population growth has long been to propose longer and wider highways. That has been true even when the bureaucracy involved is called the "transportation" department and might be expected to take a broader look at ways to address, or prevent, the need for more ribbons of traffic-snarling, carbon-generating expressways.

That's why it was good to hear that the official reason for yet another delay in the planning process, announced Monday, is that the state needs more time to fully examine an alternative, promoted by environmental groups, the U.S. Interior Department and Corps of Engineers and some local elected officials, including those who run the city of Farmington.

That alternative is referred to by its many friends as the "shared solution." It would abandon the knee-jerk idea that a new highway is needed and replace it with a more nuanced network of plans that would include improving the existing street grid, expanding public transit offerings and making future land use decisions in ways that encourage compact living and greatly reduce the necessity of long daily commutes.

UDOT once pledged to have a final environmental impact statement for the West Davis Corridor ready by the end of 2013. That date slipped, first to this summer, now to next spring, with no final federal approval apparently possible until the summer of 2015.

UDOT's reluctance to plow ahead with this project speaks well of the department's leaders. Better still would be a verdict that the plan should be dropped altogether.