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

Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Small Cities
Number Two: Raleigh, NC

The Raleigh metropolitan area is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, behind the likes of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

Most of the urban area's growth is poorly planned sprawl. During the 1980s, the population of metropolitan Raleigh jumped almost 50 percent while its urbanized land area grew by over 75 percent. In the next six years (1990 to 1996), the population increased from 302,000 to 399,000, another 32 percent, and its urbanized land area nearly doubled. Today, as a result of rampant sprawling expansion, Raleigh carries the dubious distinction of requiring its residents to travel great distances by car an average of 32.2 miles per day, more per capita vehicle miles than any other city with a population below 500,000.

This past April, 600 Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill community leaders met to consider growth planning alternatives and address how to structure and prepare for an anticipated population boom that could see the Raleigh metro area's population swell by 600,000 in the next 25 years. One proposal would have future growth occur in three centralized growth boundaries - one in Raleigh, another in Durham and a third near the local airport - and designate outside areas off limits to new development (The Herald-Sun).

Whether Raleigh is able to implement smarter growth strategies will likely depend on the efforts of a powerful and aggressive foe. Developers in Raleigh have earned criticism for moving ahead with new projects too quickly, often before submitting traffic impact forecasts, leaving public officials in the unenviable position of spending money to build roads to bail out poorly planned development. A proposed Outer Loop around North Raleigh, which won't be completed for another five years, is already besieged by developers vying to build "a dozen new malls, strip shopping centers, office buildings and subdivisions" ("Developers Rush to Ring the Outer Loop," Raleigh News and Observer).

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

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