Urban Growth in the Northeast Megaregion

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Over the next generation, the 13-state Northeast Megaregion is expected to grow by 26%, adding about 18 million residents. To assess the implications of this change for landscape conservation, Regional Plan Association and America 2050's Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas now includes maps showing historic and current land use, and projections of future urban growth in the Northeast Megaregion through 2040.


Urban Growth in the Northeast by Decade

1990

2000

2010

2020

2030

2040

Click for animation...

The land use maps are part of an ongoing effort by RPA and America 2050.  We are evaluating the results of our urban development models in order to help the more than 145 individual landscape conservation initiatives succeed in their efforts by identifying complimentary projects and land use trends in surrounding areas.

For example, population growth and expansion of urban and suburban areas will affect the region through landscape conversion, construction of new roads, increase in impervious surfaces, and fragmentation of natural systems.  But these development pressures will not affect the region uniformly.  Better understanding these challenges will help initiatives prioritize their objectives and implement strategies that are responsive to on the ground conditions and that are focused at the appropriate geographic scale.


From these maps, several important trends emerge:

By 2040, areas along the Northeast coast will be almost completely developed. Even if local zoning laws are amended to allow for denser development, many counties  will reach complete build-out--development of 95% of available land--sooner than 2040.

 

Built-Out Counties 2000 - 2040

County

State

Washington, D.C.

 

Suffolk

MA

Baltimore City

MD

Cape May

NJ

Hudson

NJ

Middlesex

NJ

Monmouth

NJ

Morris

NJ

Ocean

NJ

Passaic

NJ

Roanoke City

VA

 

Many communities on the exurban fringe of major municipal areas will experience extremely rapid growth.  Since most development in these areas will be new development, the character of these communities will change suddenly from rural or forested to low-density suburban.

 

Urban Growth Rate
(New Urban Acres/Urban Acres Available in 2000)

 

Rapidly Growing Counties 2000 - 2020

(Communities with a +50% growth rate between 2000 and 2020)

County

State

 

County

State

Piscataquis

ME

 

King George

VA

Somerset

MD

 

King William

VA

Cape May

NJ

 

Lee

VA

Hunterdon

NJ

 

Loudon

VA

Salem

NJ

 

Louisa

VA

Sussex

NJ

 

New Kent

VA

Clinton

NY

 

Orange

VA

Schenectady

NY

 

Powhatan

VA

Caroline

VA

 

Prince William

VA

Culpeper

VA

 

Berkeley

WV

Goochland

VA

 

Webster

WV


Rapidly Suburbanizing Areas



(Map shows census tracts with a +50% growth rate from 2000 to 2020 and a change from 0-20% urban land to over 20% during the same time span)


The population of many census tracts west of Interstate 81 in the Appalachians will trend downward in one or more decades between now and 2040.  While reducing pressure on the landscape, the loss of permanent residents may also signal local economic hardships.

 

Slow, Declining, or No Urban Growth Counties 2000-2040

County

State

 

County

State

Berkshire

MA

 

Potter

PA

Allegany

MD

 

Warren

PA

Aroostook

ME

 

Alleghany

VA

Essex

NJ

 

Clifton Forge

VA

Albany

NY

 

Covington

VA

Wyoming

NY

 

Buchanan

VA

Chemung

NY

 

Halifax

VA

Montgomery

NY

 

Roanoke

VA

Orleans

NY

 

South Boston

VA

Blair

PA

 

Brooke

WV

Cambria

PA

 

Hancock

WV

Cameron

PA

 

Kanawha

WV

Crawford

PA

 

Logan

WV

Greene

PA

 

Marshall

WV

McKean

PA

 

McDowell

WV

Elk

PA

 

Cabell

WV

Philadelphia

PA

 

Fayette

WV

 

Review the methodology for the urban growth model

In the Northeast Megaregion, complex urban development patterns and high demand for land and resources pose particular challenges for conservation. RPA and America 2050 are working across political jurisdictions to produce a comprehensive inventory of landscape conservation initiatives that protect watersheds, wildlife habitat, and other natural processes at the appropriate geographic scale. The project was launched in November, 2010 with the support from The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area.


Visit the website to learn more: Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas

Find  or  Submit  an Initiative

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