Friday, August 26, 2005

Free Advice for Highway Projects

Back in the 1960's, when ultra-leftist President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, a new way of embarking on transportation planning was established. Bascially, under NEPA, a transportation problem has to be identified along with several possible solutions which are then analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement. Within this analysis, which requires public input, the best alternative in terms of not only environmental impact - but fiscal as well - is identified as the preferred transportation solution. It should be noted that this is meant to be an empirical process and that it cannot work backwards.

And that's exactly the problem with the Legacy Highway proposal. In the early 1990's, Gov. Leavitt held a press conference in a West Weber pasture and proclaimed that a great roadway shall strect majestically from Brigham City to Payson. This meant that the required EIS for the transportation problem in southern Davis County had to conform to an already established-conclusion. The alternatives offered in the proposal consisted only of other road alignments and was rightly rejected by the 10th Circuit Court for failing to adequately conform to the NEPA-required consideration of alternatives. Most notable was the absence of transit in these alternatives.

Rather than address the fact that they had purposely drafted a really crappy EIS, UDOT instead ommitted a provision in their contract with Flour, Ames, & Kramer that would suspend the life of the contract in the event of litigation. How could an Appellate Court rule against UDOT if so many dollars were at stake? Unfortunately for UDOT, a poorly written contract backfired as a litigation tactic and Utah politicos, always stalwart in their quest for accountability, blamed the Plaintiffs.

Now we find out that while the Plaintiffs though they were in good faith negotiations, UDOT was actually seeking to circumvent the process. The Sierra Club and Utahns for Better Transportation definitely have cooler heads than I, for if it were me leading the negotiations after all of UDOT's shenanigans, the negotiation table would be overturned and a full-throttle legal battle would begin.

So my advice to UDOT, Orrin Hatch, the Lege, and everyone else who thinks the way to get ahead is to play dirty is this: Your actions will come back to bite you in the ass, regardless of how much political will you can put behind your unabashed chutzpah. Although I am enjoying watching you guys shoot yourselves in the foot everytime you think you're being sly, I really hope you'll get a clue.

3 Comments:

Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

Even with the legal challenges resolved, The Legacy Parkway is not scheduled to resume construction until next spring. Our perceptions of the future of personal transportation and the suburban commuter lifestyle could change profoundly by then. I predict that some of the most ardent supporters of the parkway will be questioning the wisdom of proceeding in spring 2006.
As I write this, Hurricane Rita is perhaps a day and a half from landfall and making an ominous turn northward towards America's densest region of oil production and refining facilites. Katrina and Rita are simply accelerating the arrival of a major energy crisis that would have arrived within a decade anyway. The permanent adjustments to our transportatiion habits that will be forced upon us by this crisis will make the parkway redundant.
I am the author of prediction #197 on longbets.org. I invite any Legacy Parkway supporter to challenge the prediction according to the terms of longbets.org

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