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Stop Sprawl
1998 Sierra Club Sprawl Report: 30 Most Sprawl-Threatened Cities

Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Small Cities
Number Five: Little Rock

"I think now we have the energy to become a small Atlanta," said Little Rock mayor Jim Dailey in April ("Long-Delayed Revival of Little Rock," The Christian Science Monitor).

From 1990 to 1996, Little Rock's urbanized area population remained flat. Over the same time period, its urbanized land area almost doubled from 109 square miles to 199. While the density of the population plummeted by 45 percent - meaning offices, homes, shopping and places of recreation and other activities were located farther apart - the number of miles people traveled in their cars increased by 20 percent.

A proposal to complete the north end of a highway loop around Little Rock, a project dubbed the North Belt, has been touted by local mayors as a positive investment in the area's infrastructure. The promise of better commutes between home, work and shopping would lure economic resources to the area, these leaders insist. When the region's long-range transportation plan was being debated in 1995, a citizen advisory committee recommended delaying North Belt construction for 25 years and reinvesting in the urban core.

However, local and state leaders were not ready for such a soul-searching debate on urban sprawl and its consequences at the time, and the North Belt project was quickly reinstated in the plan on the back of vocal chamber of commerce support.

Local growth experts now predict that Little Rock's urbanizing area - land area that is expected to urbanize in the next 20 years - shot up from 321 square miles to 1,500 square miles. Much of Little Rock's future expansion results from the local philosophy that any growth is good growth.

In fact, as recently as the mid-1980s, Little Rock stood as one of the least sprawling, most compactly developed cities in the South. But, following the pattern set all across the country, city residents began fleeing Little Rock for the suburbs to pursue the promise of an improved suburban lifestyle. With so much recent growth, however, the infrastructure of Little Rock's suburbs is rapidly reaching capacity.

Read the Report | Clickable Sprawl Map | Sprawl-Threatened Cities

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