Utah legislative auditors said Wednesday that residents near Parleys Summit were incorrect when they claimed state officials violated rules as they built a tall sound wall along Interstate 80 there, which opponents complained damaged scenic views.
The auditors said the Utah Department of Transportation followed state and federal rules and procedures in building the wall along a new truck passing lane, but said those rules could use clarification to prevent future misunderstandings.
Residents also complained that UDOT gave them the runaround when they attempted to obtain documents under the state’s open-records law. But, once again, auditors found that UDOT operated within rules — and delays were justified because of the large amounts of data sought.
A group called “Citizens Against the Wall” had attracted news media attention with such claims plus pleas to Gov. Gary Herbert and other officials to stop the sound wall.
It contended that UDOT did not follow rules in estimating cost effectiveness and that rules allowed only a “wall,” and not the berm and wall combination that was built. The group also said UDOT polled only neighbors closest to the wall — who favored it — instead of the broader community that opposed it.
But the Legislative Auditor General’s office wrote, “Our review confirmed the conclusion reached by two independent engineering firms. UDOT was justified in building the noise barrier.”
It noted that while UDOT rules are intended to mirror federal regulations, UDOT’s written procedures technically allowed only a “wall” rather than the wall on a berm that was built — which is permitted under federal guidelines the agency intended to reflect. UDOT pledged in a response to change the wording of the rule.
It also said it would amend rules to include all costs of the berm plus wall in estimating cost effectiveness. Auditors said the costs of the berm may not have been included initially, but actually saved money overall by avoiding the need to haul away material removed in the truck lane construction project.
Also, auditors said UDOT is required to poll only residents directly affected by the sound created by the new project, and was not required to poll other other community members.