New forecasts released yesterday show metropolitan Washington’s population growing by more than 30% over the next few decades reaching nearly seven million by 2040.
How we handle that growth – at 1.6 million additional people it’s like adding the city of Philadelphia to our region – is going to be critical in determining whether metropolitan Washington grows sustainability or grinds to halt amidst traffic congestion environmental degradation and reduced quality of life.
In addition to the overall regional total the forecasts also break the growth projections down by area. The region’s outer suburbs are expected to experience the greatest rates of growth with some of these jurisdictions like Loudoun and Prince William growing by more than 50% from 2010-2040.
The new projections were released at the February meeting of the Council of Governments’ Board of Directors. The fact that the region’s outer suburbs are expected to see the highest rates of growth over the next few decades prompted several Board members to raise concerns about how these projections align with Region Forward which advocates for growth and development to occur in transit-oriented mixed-use Activity Centers.
The 2012 Baseline Progress Report which measured how metropolitan Washington is performing on its Region Forward targets already showed that the region is not capturing nearly enough of its growth in these Activity Centers. Without better coordination of transportation and land use policies Board members rightly questioned whether meeting the region’s targets would be achievable.
Fairfax County Supervisor Sharon Bulova summarized it well when talking with the Examiner: “Growth happens whether you want it or not. It’s not that we grow but how we grow. Fairfax County I think is wisely preparing for that growth and doing so in a way that is trying to accommodate our future growth in areas that can be supported by mass transit. I think that bodes well for the future of Fairfax.”