Broad Coalition Announces “Transit 1st” Campaign Law Suit Filed to Challenge Legacy Parkway

  • 0
  • January 17, 2001

Statement of Richard E. Kanner, M.D.
Statement of Terry Tempest Williams
Statement of Mayor Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson

For Immediate Release: January 17th 2001

Robert Adler (801) 581-3791
Craig Galli (801) 536-6667
Doug Owens (801) 536-6660

Salt Lake City—Utahns for Better Transportation and the Sierra Club, joined by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, announced plans today to file a lawsuit to halt construction of the Legacy Parkway, a 13 mile freeway on the edge of the Great Salt Lake in Davis County to be constructed parallel to I-15, an existing freeway. The Legacy Parkway is the first phase of the proposed 130-mile Legacy Parkway. The first lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, is just part of a broader campaign to promote a “Transit 1st” policy. “Smarter transportation policies and a more diverse mix of transportation solutions can better reduce traffic congestion while promoting more economic prosperity and better preserving our communities than the 1960s solution of building more roads,” explained Roger Borgenicht of Future Moves Coalition and one of the founders of Utahns for Better Transportation. Mr. Borgenicht also commended Mayor Rocky Anderson for joining Utahns for Better Transportation in the law suit: “The Mayor is one elected official who recognizes the rare opportunity we have in history to truly make a difference. Future generations will look back and applaud the Mayor for his vision and courage.”

UBT consists of an unusually diverse coalition of individuals and organizations. Individual members include Davis County commuters and residents, local urban and transportation planning professionals, developers, environmentalists, physicians, duck hunters and farmers. Institutional members of the coalition include FRIENDS of the Great Salt Lake, Future Moves Coalition, League of Women Voters of Salt Lake, HawkWatch International, Crossroads Urban Center, Coalition for Livable Streets, Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, Disabled Rights Action Committee, Wasatch Clean Air Coalition, and Utah Rivers Council.

The groups filed a law suit against the two federal agencies which approved the Legacy Parkway project, the Federal Highway Administration and Army Corps of Engineers, asserting that the approvals violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. Craig Galli, attorney for UBT, explained that the “Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Utah Department of Transportation grossly underestimated the potential contribution mass transit can make towards meeting future travel demand.” He added, “we hope this case will stimulate a broader, community-wide effort to plan and build a true regional transportation system that meets the needs of all Utahns in ways that better preserve our quality of life.”

A common mission of the coalition groups is to convince state planners to depart from decades of transportation policies oriented around the automobile and change to a more progressive approach of planning Transit 1st. Paradigm shifts by other cities, such as Portland have led them to abandon previous freeway development plans altogether. “Effective transportation policies do not have to cause more sprawl, air pollution, and loss of the region’s already-dwindling open space and natural habitat. We do not need to give up our quality of life to satisfy our transportation needs,” said Lynn DeFreitas, President of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake, and member of Utahns for Better Transportation.

Dr. Richard E. Kanner, Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Pulmonary Function Lab at the University of Utah and former member and Chairman of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Board, also strongly opposes the Legacy Parkway project. His statement in opposition is attached. He has conducted extensive epidemiological research in Utah over the past 32 years studying the effects of air pollutants on the respiratory system.

Interestingly, many business and industry leaders share the concerns of Dr. Kanner and others regarding air quality. If the contribution of emissions from mobile sources continues to increase as a result of the Legacy Parkway and the 130-mile Legacy Parkway, air quality could deteriorate to the point of exceeding EPA air standards. Craig Galli explained that violating these standards could mean trouble for future economic growth along the Wasatch Front as EPA imposes more stringent air emissions controls on industry.

Other members of UBT such as the Disabled Rights Action Committee and Crossroads Urban Center are also very concerned that the state is only planning for the people that are able to drive, or can afford automobiles. “It is time that the Wasatch Front begin transportation development for all citizens,” said Glen Bailey of Crossroads Urban Center. “They should not discriminate against those who are unable to drive cars,” he added.

The proposed Legacy Parkway will destroy wetlands of international importance adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. This sensitive ecosystem provides resting and breeding habitat for nearly 9 million migratory birds, some traveling as far from Argentina to the Artic. Terry Tempest Williams, an internationally-renowned author and member of the UBT, submitted a statement on behalf of the “larger community” that will be impaired by the proposed highway. Her statement is attached in full.

The Sierra Club is also busy preparing a Clean Air Act lawsuit which will challenge the Wasatch

Front region’s massive highway construction plans, including the proposed Legacy Parkway. Nina Dougherty, Sierra Club Utah Chapter Chair stated that: “We can no longer afford to ignore the air quality impacts associated with UDOT’s policies to put more cars on more roads. This law suit will help focus the attention of our government leaders and the public on this important issue.” She expects the Sierra Club to file their suit very soon, as early as next week.

to top

Director of the Pulmonary Function Lab, University of Utah

“I am opposed to the Legacy Parkway because I believe it will add to the already significant problem of deterioration of our air quality and thus is a hazard to human health. In addition, poor air quality becomes both an economic and a political problem.

It is an economic problem as high ozone levels damage property such as plastics and rubber. Also, plant life is affected and thus agriculture, or what is left of it in our valley, will suffer.

It is a political problem because if we cannot assure the EPA that the State Implementation Plan (SIP) is adequate to control the problem the EPA will step in and the SIP for our area will be redesigned by someone in Denver or back East that is not as familiar with our situation as we are. We will lose control of our own destiny. The Legacy Parkway, by increasing pollution will make it harder for Utah to be in compliance with Federal Standards.

The Legacy Parkway was not designed as part of an overall plan for any of the counties along the Wasatch Front and thus, no consideration was given to its effects on air quality. By bringing more motor vehicles into the more heavily populated areas, such as Salt Lake City, there will be more tailpipes to spew pollutants. Also, the increased number of vehicles will make the already bad stop and go travel even worse and acceleration and deacceleration means that the efficiency of the vehicles will be further diminished with an increase in emissions from each tailpipe. It all adds up to poor air quality.

There is ample data from Utah, the rest of the United States and the rest of the world as well that shows a significant association between poor air quality and an increase in mortality and morbidity. Those with heart and lung disease are most vulnerable, especially those 65 years of age and older.

A further decrease in air quality from our overzealous worship of the automobile (and SUV) will have other economic effects as well. The State and/or the EPA will force our industries to make extensive and expensive modifications or even close them down. This will harm the economy and cost jobs.

Finally, land use planning in the West began in 1847 in the initial design of Salt Lake City. Brigham Young designed wide streets to handle the traffic that then existed. He also required a significant degree of open space. When miners sought to profit by removing a large iron ore deposit in City Creek Canyon and thus jeopardize the new city’s water supply they were stopped and the ore still remains in place. Whom among his heirs to leadership can claim to be his true successor?”

Richard E. Kanner, M.D.

to top


“The construction of the Legacy Parkway shows a lack of imagination. There are alternatives, mass transit being one of them. We can live differently. The welfare of millions of migrating birds is at stake. Who will speak for the birds? Who will speak for the avocets, black-necked stilts, white-faced ibises, long-billed curlews, and eared grebes? To jeopardize the rich wetlands of Great Salt Lake, a natural legacy that carries its own wealth and beauty for generations to come, is to jeopardize our own health and humanity in the name of personal convenience and short-sightedness. Do we have it within us to act with restraint on behalf of a larger community that extends beyond our own species? The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with clasped hands that we might act with wisdom, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to continue.”

Terry Tempest Williams
January 11, 2001

to top

Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson
Salt Lake City Mayor
State of the City Address Excerpt
January 9, 2001

“In neighborhoods throughout the City, there has been a dramatic shift in the way we view transportation issues. Now, when we think of transportation, we no longer think just of automobiles. In fact, more and more, we think of getting away from our dependence upon automobiles and the onerous costs they impose upon our families, the pollution they create throughout our region, and the isolation and frustration they often create for individual drivers.

The phenomenal success of the North-South light rail line, the development of the University of Utah spur, and the passage by the voters of the transit tax increase represent the acceptance – or, perhaps more accurately stated, the enthusiastic embracing – of mass transit as a substantial component of our transportation infrastructure. Along with the commitment by the community to mass transit comes a commitment by our Administration to transit-oriented development. That commitment is shared by much of the business and development community, as well as by the University of Utah, which, under the vigorous and inspirational leadership of President Bernie Machen, has assisted in promoting, and solving many of the problems associated with, the new East-West light rail line.

As we move closer to the construction of a regional commuter rail system, linked to expanded light rail and bus systems, and as we experience more health-endangering air pollution, our Administration, even in the face of tremendous negative political odds, continues to oppose the construction of Legacy Parkway. That highway, which was conceived before a commuter rail system was being seriously discussed, is a continuation of outmoded sprawl development – the type of development that will funnel into the Salt Lake Valley thousands of more polluting vehicles each day. The legacy of Legacy Parkway will be more pollution, more respiratory disease, possibly more cancer, greater dependence upon the automobile, the consumption of more fossil fuels, more greenhouse gases, more road rage, the undermining of wise regional planning and mass transit, and a move away from smart-growth development.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.