FARMINGTON — The Utah Department of Transportation has finished a $1 million upgrade on the trail system adjacent to Legacy Parkway — a timely development, as Utahns flock to get outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UDOT recently completed upgrades to the Legacy Trail along State Route 67, the Legacy Parkway, installing a system of cable barriers at locations in North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, Bountiful, Centerville and Farmington to increase safety for users of the multipurpose trail.

Earlier this year, the Utah Transportation Commission approved $1 million for the project, which essentially provides a reinforced separation between vehicles and pedestrians using the popular trail system.

On Jan. 1 of this year, UDOT increased the speed limit on Legacy Parkway from 55 to 65 mph and discontinued a policy that had banned large semitractor-trailers from using the 14-mile stretch of road.

When the alternative to Interstate 15 was finished in September 2008, the parkway featured a quiet road surfaces and a billboard ban, in addition to a 55 mph speed limit and a ban on large trucks. Those features were required by a settlement agreement that was reached by the state and citizen activist groups in 2005 after a lawsuit halted construction on the parkway in 2001.

The agreement included a statute stating the truck prohibition would automatically expire on Jan. 1, 2020. The expiration of the statute also revoked UDOT’s authority to keep large semitrailers off the roadway.

UDOT spokesperson Lisa Miller said the trail was safe for use before, but the cable barriers provide another layer of protection in certain locations. The transportation department’s design staff analyzed the corridor and determined the cable barrier be installed whenever the trail gets within 50 feet of the roadway.

“Our mission is to make sure we have the safest roads possible but also to make sure we have good mobility options,” Miller said of the project. “We don’t just move cars, we move people.”

The paved Legacy Trail is open to walkers and bikers and extends the entire 14 miles of the parkway. It includes a viewing area for the 2,100-acre nature preserve at 2100 W. 500 South in Woods Cross. The preserve features bare mudflats, seasonal wet meadows, marshes and several open water channels. It links the the Great Salt Lake ecosystem to the Wasatch Mountains.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic enters its ninth month and social distancing is top of mind for many people, outdoor recreation activity has surged. According to a September report from the Wasatch Front Regional Council, bicycle trips have gone up 40% from pre-pandemic numbers and trips to open-space areas like city, state and national parks, trailheads and similar amenities are up 160%.

“People are looking for any way they can get outside and safely recreate,” Miller said. “Especially now.”

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