Central Valley could be part of new ‘megapolitan’ area
November 25, 2011
• Would stretch from San Francisco to Reno
• LA’s could absorb South Valley
Much of the Central Valley could find itself part of two “megapolitan” areas by mid-century, according to a new study.
Sacramento, Yolo, Yuba, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties in the Valley could morph into what’s dubbed the “Sierra Pacific megapolitan area.” Based on largely common economic, physical, social, and cultural traits, it would stretch from the Bay Area eastward to Reno, Nev., says the study, published by the American Planning Association.
In all, ten clusters consisting of 23 megapolitan areas are the emerging economic engines of the U.S., with substantial growth predicted in population, construction and jobs in the next 30 years, says the report, “Megapolitan America: A New Vision for Understanding America's Metropolitan Geography,” by Arthur Nelson, professor at the University of Utah and founding director of the Metropolitan Research Center; and Robert Lang, professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and director of the Brookings Institution Mountain West.
Megapolitan America is a new way of looking at the changing face of the USA, the authors contend. "The sooner the United States recognizes it has evolved into a nation of 20-some very densely settled economic engines, the better able it will be to sustain long-term economic development to mid-century and beyond," they say.
Census figures from 2010 show that since 1970, megapolitan areas absorbed 70 percent of the 48 states' growth. By 2040, the 10 megapolitan clusters will, as a group, form the world's third most populous country, behind China and India, the researchers predict.
“The U.S. is the only developed country that is on track to add substantial population,” the report says, adding that the U.S. is also "the fastest-growing industrialized nation in the world."
The researchers say one key implication of megapolitan Los Angeles could be lost agricultural land. At the current rate of farmland lost per new resident, the agricultural economies of the Los Angeles region could be eliminated by 2040, they say.
Messrs. Nelson and Lang believe that megapolitan areas present new governance challenges.
They see the growing convergence of major metro areas and smaller towns in between as an opportunity to promote better regional planning and cooperation rather than leading to individual cities acting as rivals for new investment.
As their analysis looks long range, through 2040, the authors' assessment is relatively upbeat considering the current state of the economy.
For example, in the megapolitan areas, "much of the existing built stock needs to be rehabilitated, if not replaced entirely, at a fairly rapid pace. We estimate that between 2010 and 2040, the nation will spend more than $40 trillion on development, with up to $30 trillion of that spent on megapolitan clusters and their megapolitan areas."