Once again, UDOT is playing fast and loose with facts and figures. This time it’s to cover up their mistakes in charging ahead on Legacy Parkway construction while serious and substantial questions remain about the Legacy approvals.
While we all agree that any waste of the State’s resources should be a matter of serious concern, we disagree about where the responsibility lies for that waste. Let’s separate fact from fiction:
Claim: Legacy foes are wealthy, out-of state interlopers carrying out an anti-Utah national agenda.
Facts: Opponents of Legacy are local individuals and organizations dedicated to more effective and less environmentally damaging transportation solutions for Utah’s Wasatch Front. Many of these citizens reside in Davis County.
Claim: Opponents’ “real” agenda to stop all road construction because they are anti-growth; they don’t even care about the environment.
Facts: Our common mission is to work through the legislative and judicial process to end decades of transportation policies oriented around the automobile to the exclusion of mass transit. We want to bring balance to our State’s transportation system by developing a regional transit system and fostering transit oriented development. We are committed to stopping new roads which destroy critical wildlife habitat and promote sprawl development where reasonable alternatives exist. The issue is how we grow, not whether we grow. Envision Utah — which is widely supported by business, industry and the citizenry – proposes a different growth scenario which would increase transit usage by 30% and reduce congestion, sprawl and air pollution.
Claim: The Order from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals stopping construction of the Legacy Parkway until March will cause harm by idling hundreds of workers and costing $92,500 per day, totaling over $25 million dollars, because UDOT planned to construct through the winter.
Facts: UDOT managers submitted sworn affidavits in district court stating that UDOT planned to stop construction during the winter months or “until such work must be suspended due to weather conditions.” Moreover, we never opposed construction of the Burke overpass, a project which would occur independent of the Legacy Parkway.
Claim: Opponents delayed filing their lawsuit.
Facts: UDOT received its final project approval on January 9, 2001. We filed our complaint on January 17, 2001.
Claim: Opponents delayed filing their injunction to stop the project.
Facts: We agreed with UDOT to ask for expedited consideration of the case to get a final decision as quickly as possible rather than bring a motion for preliminary injunction which can delay the final decision. UDOT did not file the administrative record until May 14, 2001, causing a five month delay in briefing the case. We asked the court in our opening brief, filed on May 22, 2001, to stop construction.
Claim: Opponents delayed filing their appeal to the Tenth Circuit.
Facts: The district court issued a final, appealable judgment on October 9, 2001. We filed our appeals on October 12, 2001.
Claim: UDOT acted cautiously and prudently when ordering its contractor to start construction.
Facts: UDOT was cavalier in starting construction with complete disregard for litigation risks and the consequences to taxpayer dollars. First, UDOT awarded the contract on December 22, 2000, even though it did not receive its wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers until January 9, 2001. Second, the contract UDOT made with the builders failed to include any provision which would protect it in the event of construction delays. This was despite the fact that UDOT knew as far back as May 2000 that lawsuits would be filed against the project. Third, Judge Jenkins’ decision on August 11, 2001, was highly critical of UDOT’s analysis, holding that the mass transit projections, estimated project costs and carbon monoxide analysis, were “just plain wrong” and that “other alternatives could have reasonably been considered.” Jenkin’s decision uphold the project approvals turned on his interpretation of the standard of review, prompting us to announce to UDOT and the press on August 14, 2001, that we would appeal the decision.
Claim: Governor Leavitt says that if the Circuit Court rules against UDOT in March, it would cost $200 million to repair the environmental damage. This cost would be for the removal of the fill so far completed.
Facts: UDOT assured the district court that if the Legacy Parkway ultimately is not built, restoration might not be difficult or expensive. The Governor has presented no facts to justify this $200 million claim.
Some Utah politicians want to hold our coalition responsible by passing legislation allowing UDOT to sue us for the costs for delays. UDOT is greatly exaggerating the potential costs of delay of the Legacy project in an attempt to villainize the local citizens and groups who only want to enforce the law and ensure the best long term outcome for our communities. It would behoove the politicians to take a more reasoned look at the facts. UDOT should settle the case and spend the winter performing the impacts and alternatives analysis that both the district court and the court of appeals found wanting.
Chair, Future Moves Coalition
Lynn de Freitas
President, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake