Concerned about the impact a planned development in Salt Lake City’s westernmost area could have on a truck-free highway in Davis County, a group of community advocates urged the Inland Port Authority Board to support efforts to preserve the road as it is.
In a letter addressed to the board and delivered to members at their meeting on Wednesday, the group raised concerns that the planned inland port development will be used as an excuse to add trucks to Legacy Parkway — a roadway that abuts wildlife and currently has a speed of just 55 mph.
“We have little understanding of what the ultimate development plan for the proposed ‘inland port’ is, or even how all of you define ‘inland port’ — but everyone seems to agree that the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City will take years to develop,” the letter says. “Let’s not use a speculative project — the inland port — as a justification to turn the Legacy Parkway into a highway.”
Members of the inland port board didn’t indicate during the meeting whether they would be supportive of truck traffic on Legacy Parkway.
The 15-year truck ban deal, initially drawn up to end lawsuits by environmental groups against the highway, will expire on Jan. 1, 2020, and the state is then free to raise the speed limit or look at widening the roadway. Lawmakers could also decide to extend the deal and preserve existing conditions.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, wants to extend the truck ban but told The Salt Lake Tribune that he expects his legislation will face “significant opposition” because of the inland port, which will likely create more truck traffic and a need to handle it.
In their letter, 15 members from community, civic and environmental organizations — including the Westpointe Community Council, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Salt Lake Air Protectors — said they worry that adding trucks to Legacy Parkway would worsen northern Utah’s air quality and harm the people and wildlife living near the roadway.
“We urge the inland port board to support a repeal of the sunset clause on the truck ban,” Heather Dove, president of the Great Salt Lake Audubon, said during public comment at the board’s meeting. “In 2005, the Legislature instituted the ban due to Legacy’s unique proximity to Great Salt Lake’s wetlands and the Legacy Nature Preserve. That proximity hasn’t changed.”
The message outlining the group’s environmental concerns was delivered just days after board member Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, complained to lawmakers on the Legislative Management Committee that members of the public were “beating the hell out of us every time we turn around” with concerns that were “mostly about air quality.”
Many of the statements made during the board’s public comment period on Wednesday criticized Buxton’s statements, which one person called “stunning.”
“What I would entreat you to remember is that we the general public are not an obstacle to the inland port,” said Richard Holman, co-chair of the Westside Coalition. “We are the reason for it. Some of you have constituents. They vote. Some of you are public servants, paid by tax dollars. We want you to remember that we’re all in this.”