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Population Growth Burdens Roads, Schools and State Programs

Amid explosive population growth, Arizona tackles the traditional problems of urban sprawl as it tries to create a new model for livable communities. Ray Suarez reports on the Valley of the Sun's transition in the face of growing infrastructure demands.

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    Finally, another in our series on infrastructure, "Blueprint America," produced in collaboration with WNET New York.

    Earlier this week, we looked at decaying roads and bridges and aging ports. Tonight's topic: urban sprawl, its problems and possibilities.

    For that, I visited some of the rapidly expanding communities in the state of Arizona.

    Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, all part of Arizona's vast Valley of the Sun, the fifth-largest and one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the nation, expanding in both size and population year after year.

  • DAN BEACH, Traffic Reporter, KTAR Radio:

    Growth. Oh, man, the growth. I've seen five freeways built in the last 18 years, and I've seen the growth of the valley probably double, almost triple in size, from a million people to three million-plus now.


    This is Dan Beach, better known in these parts as KTAR's Detour Dan, Phoenix's eye-in-the-sky, the man who reports traffic tie-ups from overhead.

    Beach has a bird's-eye view of the kind of sprawl that's plaguing Sun Belt cities like Phoenix, places where the population is booming.

    To put it in perspective, in 1930, 48,000 people lived here; today, more than 4 million people are spread out across the region, connected by thousands of miles of streets and overcrowded expressways.


    The word "closure" has come out of my mouth way too many times this morning, as far as I'm concerned.


    With each passing year, Beach has to range further and further from downtown Phoenix to report on the area's traffic.


    Out west in the area of Buckeye and Avondale and Goodyear, what used to be just a quiet two-lane highway ride in, in the morning, just quiet as a mouse, is now a five-mile backup. They have their own rush hour out there these days.


    Buckeye, 40 miles west of downtown Phoenix, sits right on the edge of the sprawl line. With lots of open land, this formerly quiet outpost has experienced its own explosive growth in recent years.

    Down on the ground here in Buckeye, the elected and appointed officials who run this former farming community have decided to take charge of their own town's growth.

    SUPARNA DASGUPTA, Interim Director of Community Development: The growth is going to come to us no matter what. If we don't plan for the transportation and the infrastructure and connect to what's coming from California to us, then, obviously, we are not doing our job as to ensure that the growth is happening in a managed manner.