Will Austin And San Antonio Become The Next DFW

Dated: 03/29/2016

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Of the nearly half a million new people the state of Texas gained in 2015, 22 percent — that’s more than 100,000 — resided in the Austin and San Antonio metropolitan areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released Thursday.

The two major metro centers in Central Texas added 108,680 people, through births or by moving, according to the census, leading experts to ponder on the near-inevitability of an Austin-San Antonio “megalopolis” that can already be envisioned in the form of cities and long stretches of development along Interstate 35.

“I think it’s pretty certain that with the growth in Austin and San Antonio, the dramatic growth in San Marcos and New Braunfels, that in 20 to 30 years we’re living in a megaplex and for that reason I think now’s the time to start engaging in ‘forward visioning,’” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.

Together, the two areas posted four of the top 20 fastest-growing counties by percentage change in the nation: Hays and Williamson near Austin, and Comal and Kendall near San Antonio. Two of those, Hays and Comal, connect the two areas through an increasingly clogged I-35.

“Hays and Comal are in between these two really growing cities that are finally beginning to look at each other,” Austin city demographer Ryan Robinson said. “I’m not saying that we’re going to be DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth), but I really think we’ll begin to be seen as a megaplex or a megalopolis.”

The two areas share similar goals: growing their local and international brands; building infrastructure to handle the booming population growth; and creating opportunities for lower and middle-income families within the cities. San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor hit all those points in her recent State of the City speech, and Adler has tried to address a lack of infrastructure and affordability during his tenure.

With a nod toward the growing ties between the two cities, the two mayors recently announced a working group to address regional issues — such as transportation, economic development and water — that will begin meeting in April.

“The cities are growing closer and closer together,” Adler said. “We’re becoming increasingly interrelated economically and on so many levels. We’re dealing with similar challenges like mobility, infrastructure and affordability, and that’s why Austin and San Antonio make such great sense.”

The forward planning might be well-advised, experts say, as the area’s population growth is expected to continue for at least a few more years. While longtime residents bemoan the uptick in living costs in the area, Central Texas still offers relatively cheap prices compared with other major metro areas, such as New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, which might continue fueling the population growth,

And while Austin might be behind in building infrastructure for the population boom within city limits, Adler sees hope that talks between Austin and San Antonio can give the area a leg up on planning for the fledgling megalopolis.

“I think the more we can anticipate and plan for our future, the better off we’re going to be,” he said. “It’s difficult when you don’t plan or you don’t anticipate correctly, and you find yourself behind the 8-ball playing catch up. … We’re trying to get out from behind the curve.”

Thank you for this great article entitled "Will Austin And San Antonio Become The Next DFW" by James Barragan

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