Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Large Cities
Number Eight: Minneapolis - St. Paul
Between 1982 and 1994, the amount of time Minneapolis - St. Paul
residents wasted stuck in traffic jams increased 178 percent.
In the Twin Cities, local officials keep a register of area hunters they can call to
kill a burgeoning population of suburban deer. The reason? Sprawl has severely encroached
on rural areas and eliminated the deer's natural predators.
Between 1982 and 1992, Minnesota lost 2.3 million acres of farmland to development.
Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, lost the greatest proportion by far: 29
percent. The rate of open space destroyed by development increased by almost 25 percent in
the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area overall.
While area residents are leaving the city core (population decreased by 3.3 percent in
Minneapolis–St. Paul between 1990 and 1996), the suburbs have seen steady and significant
expansion. The number of people moving to the city's surrounding areas rose 25 percent in
the 1980s and another 16 percent in the early 1990s. In particular, nearby Wright and
Sherburne counties have experienced astounding growth. During the last decade, the number
of households grew 52 percent in Sherburne County and 25 percent in Wright County.
Many of those new residents drive into the Twin Cities for work. As a result, few urban
areas have experienced a faster growing traffic problem than Minneapolis–St. Paul.
Between 1982 and 1994, the amount of time residents wasted stuck in traffic jams increased
by 178 percent, the third largest increase of similar-sized urban areas in the country.
Racial and economic disparity between town and suburb is also a growing problem.
Despite surveys that indicate most Minneapolis residents would like to live in racially
diverse neighborhoods and send their children to integrated schools, the Twin Cities are
developing previously unseen pockets of inner-city poverty that are increasingly
segregated. The number of these areas increased from seven to 37 between 1970 and 1990.
Residents of these troubled areas are cut off from the mostly suburban job market:
two-thirds of the region's job growth during the early 1990s was in developing suburbs or
in free-standing cities like Stillwater and Hastings.
Regional planners calculate the cost of all this low-density growth at $3.1 billion for
new sewers and water systems alone, as the region's population rises by 650,000 between
now and 2020. Taxpayers in the Twin Cities region could save $600 million in public
infrastructure costs by concentrating development, these planners say.
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