Gary Uresk: Allowing large trucks on Legacy Parkway is a step backward for the state of Utah

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Big trucks stay to the right on U.S. Highway 89 to merge onto Interstate 15 on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, because big-rig trucks are banned on Legacy Parkway.

On Jan. 1, large trucks will be allowed on the Legacy Parkway, a large step backwards in the implementation of UDOT’s stated strategic directive of creating a “Pathway to Quality Life.”

Since the Legacy Parkway is such a visible example of a pathway to quality life, it is perplexing to me that UDOT took no action to preserve one of the components of the Legacy Parkway that contributes significantly to the quality of life of those associated with it.

UDOT is not solely responsible for this step backward. The Utah Legislature is largely to blame, as it was the Legislature that failed to see the vision of what Legacy Parkway represents. UDOT’s culpability lies in making no effort to defend its strategic directive.

The Legacy Parkway was born out of a compromise between community leaders who wanted a highway and those who did not want it. Instead of a westerly version of I-15 desired by state and local leaders, what we got was a parkway with no large trucks, a 55 mph speed limit, a trail and other amenities.

As often in compromises, one can look at this as glass half full or a glass half empty. One can chafe at the compromise and always be angry about what one didn’t get, or one can embrace the difference and look for the benefits provided by the compromise. Often compromise brings benefits not fully appreciated by both parties prior to the compromise.

I first looked upon Legacy Parkway as a glass half full, but now look upon it as a glass completely full. For the residents of Woods Cross City already bisected by I-15, Legacy Parkway is a welcome respite from the impacts a typical major transportation facility has on a community. Secondly, for those who utilize it, the parkway provides a calmer, more relaxed alternative to I-15. Having this choice adds to the quality of life of those who choose to use it.

When those of us supporting the large-truck ban were making our case before the Legislature, we were told by some of the members on the Senate Transportation Committee it was unreasonable on our part to expect the Legacy Parkway to be treated differently from other highways in the state.

“Why should it be any different?" they responded.

I was shocked by this statement. First, the Legislature itself specifically stated the uniqueness of the Legacy Parkway as the justification for first instituting the truck ban in 2005. The Legacy Parkway is no less unique today than it was in 2005.

Secondly, this lack of vision by our legislative leaders shows their commitment to a mediocrity of sameness. It is clear there are those in the legislature who lack clarity when it comes to quality of life.

We do not need strategic directives that are ignored, and we do not need dedication to a mediocrity that demands sameness regardless of its impact on our quality of life.

What we need is choice, not sameness. We need to move forward, not backwards and, most importantly, we need leaders that have a genuine and focused commitment to our quality of life.

Gary Uresk is the city administrator of Woods Cross City and chair of the Great Salt Lake Scenic Byway.

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