Lifting of Big Rig Ban Sparks “Outrage” From City Leaders and Residents in Utah
Salt Lake City, UT – Officials from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) announced on Friday semi-trucks will be allowed to travel on Legacy Parkway for the first time since its opening in 2008, and local residents are furious.
The four lane, 14-mile Parkway — also known as State Route 67 and located just north of Salt Lake City — has banned semis since its creation.
That all changes on January 1, 2020.
The announcement was officially made during the monthly meeting of the Utah Transportation Commission on October 18.
It was also announced the speed limit on the Parkway will be raised from 55 to 65, also effective on January 1.
How We Got Here
The Parkway opened in September 2008 with the goal of taking 30-percent of vehicles off of Interstate 15, which runs to the east and mainly parallel to the Parkway.
By the time it opened, the roadway cost $685.2 million and took more than 7 1/2 years of combined work and delays to complete.
Project managers called the Parkway “a work of art,” as the road purposely curves frequently to enhance scenic qualities nearby, such as the Wasatch Mountains.
In 2005, the Legacy Parkway Agreement (LPA) was signed, ending litigation that brought construction of the Parkway to a stop.
While the LPA featured several elements, the two most notable were the restriction prohibiting big rigs with five or more axles, and the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.
“The LPA was a great thing because it allowed us to complete a roadway that has made a real difference in mobility in south Davis County,” UDOT Director of Traffic and Safety, Robert Miles, said to Transportation Commissioners.
“But the LPA had a sunset date: January 1, 2020. The only way that sunset could be extended is through legislative action, and the legislature has chosen not to extend it. So the LPA expires January 1.”
Miles explained when the LPA expires, UDOT has no authority to keep large trucks off the road, “so that change just automatically happens.”
Residents and City Leaders Express “Outrage”
That didn’t stop many local residents and politicians from trying to extend the sunset out 2 1/2 years to July 1, 2022, which was intended to give impacted cities more time to prepare for the change.
The Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee denied the sunset extension in a 4-1 vote in February 2019, after more than an hour of emotional pleas from residents.
The denial left many residents “outraged” and some even “in tears,” according to multiple reports.
The Deseret News reported back in February that Deeda Seed, a former Salt Lake City Councilwoman, described the vote to lift the truck ban as “shocking,” “awful,” and “heartbreaking.”
Further, she went on to excoriate Utah’s trucking stakeholders who advocated for the changes.
“What we saw was a demonstration of the voracious appetite of the trucking industry in Utah,” Seed said.
According to that same report, many residents who attended the February meeting fumed.
“Way to listen to the people,” one man shouted in anger after the vote.
“Guess I’ll be selling my house now,” another woman shouted.
“Not only are we going to have trucks, but we could have the possibility of trucks going 70 mph on that (road), and I think it’s too much of a change on the ecosystem and the community around it,” Woods Cross city administrator, Gary Uresk, said of lifting the truck ban.
Raising the Speed Limit
In a press release, UDOT said a recent speed study found drivers average between 65-70 mph on the Parkway, despite the posted 55 mph speed limit.
“Legacy Parkway was designed to accommodate speeds higher than 55 miles per hour, so it is safe and comfortable to drive at 65,” Miles said.
Miles continued, “We decided to raise the speed limit to a speed that is closer to what drivers are actually driving. In doing so, we hope to eliminate the safety risk of speed discrepancy, which can happen when you have a significant difference between the speed most drivers are actually traveling and those who are driving the posted speed limit.”