Legacy of disagreement: Law professor explains negotiations made to solve traffic debate

The Legacy Parkway will not solve the problem of traffic congestion in the Salt Lake Valley, said Robert Adler, professor of environmental law, in a Nov. 8 lecture about litigation and negotiation between citizen groups and local governments over the issue.

Congestion in the area is gradually increasing because Salt Lake City offers more employment opportunities and Davis County offers more housing developments.

This trend causes thick southbound traffic in the morning and thick northbound traffic in the afternoon.

The parkway would be four lanes wide and adjacent to the wetlands to offer an alternative route between Salt Lake and Davis counties.

Citizen groups objected to the parkway’s original location and proposed that the road be built along Redwood Road, that I-15 be expanded and that Davis County’s public transportation system adopt a light-rail system between Salt Lake and Davis counties to lessen commuter congestion instead of relocating it.

Adler helped represent the citizens in litigation and negotiations as the two groups-citizens and the government- compromised on the issues.

As a result, Legacy Parkway will be narrower than I-15 and will have a lower speed limit. Only open to passenger cars, it will run adjacent to Legacy Park wetlands, home to birds including the Snowy Plover, the White-faced Ibis and the Bald Eagle.

The difficulty in the plaintiff’s proposal to expand I-15 is that by 2020, employment in Salt Lake County will have increased so much that congestion will become worse despite expansion, Adler said.

The Legacy Parkway will just split traffic off to another area, he said.

“If all we do is build more roads, congestion will not change much,” Adler said.

“A network of transit systems will do well for the future.”

Students listening to the lecture were interested to hear about the compromise agreed upon between government and citizens.

“If people can just compromise, it can be a win-win situation,” said Whit Johnson, second-year law student.

A special legislative session Nov. 9 approved the settlement that allows plans to move forward with the Legacy Parkway project pending approval in federal court.

The cost of building the parkway is currently unknown. Officials are waiting for additional proposals and designs. Proposals will be made in six to eight months, Adler said.

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