Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Large Cities
Number Four: Cincinnati
The amount of time Cincinnati drivers sit
in gridlock increased by 200 percent from 1982 to 1994.
While the number of people moving into the Cincinnati metro area has not risen
significantly in recent years (8 percent in the 1980s and 2.2 percent from 1990 to 1996),
its land area has spread out steadily over the years: from 335 square miles in 1970 to 512
square miles in 1990, a 53 percent increase. The area grew by another 12 percent between
1990 and 1996.
As metropolitan Cincinnati's boundaries have widened, more and more people are moving
farther away from the city's core. Commercial centers and housing units, in turn, are
being arbitrarily scattered across the landscape, forcing residents to drive increasingly
Today, Cincinnati has one of the worst traffic problems in the country. The amount of
time drivers sit in gridlock increased by a striking 200 percent in twelve years (1982 to
1994), the second biggest increase in the country. The average number of daily vehicle
miles traveled per person jumped by 29 percent between 1990 and 1996.
Cincinnati's sprawl has also seeped into its neighboring state. Southeastern Indiana
saw 11.3 percent growth between 1990 and 1997, making it the state's fastest growing
region. Almost all the growth can be attributed to the expansion of Cincinnati.
Sprawl has brought other classic symptoms of poorly planned growth to Cincinnati,
including lost open space and threatened agricultural land. A number of public officials
are desperate to correct poor growth patterns. In early December 1997, the Ohio Farm
Bureau warned that Cincinnati's development had started to threaten a vibrant agricultural
economic base in Hamilton County, where agriculture generates $6 billion a year, more than
10 percent of Ohio's entire $50 billion a year agriculture industry.
In March, Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Hamilton County Commission
President Tom Neyer Jr. co-signed a letter requesting help from the Joint Center for
Sustainable Communities, a Washington-based think tank, to address sprawl issues such as
groundwater contamination, polluted landfills in Hamilton County and vacant lot
redevelopment. Still, new development along Interstate 71 from Cincinnati to Columbus
continues to threaten valuable soybean, corn and wheat farms. "It's a bigger issue
than it was 10 years ago," said Mark Anthony, spokesman for the Ohio Department of
Agriculture. "It will be an even bigger issue 10 years from now."
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