Raleigh-Durham to Charlotte to Atlanta and on to Birmingham – the southeastern megaregion remains a soup of disconnected cities. Historically speaking, it’s been that way ever since the Civil War obliterated southern infrastructure and the band-aids of reconstruction merely healed wounds to keep essential commodities flowing to major ports – at the time, New Orleans and north to New York City.
Today, as we envision a future of massive cities covering two thirds of the earth by 2050, the race for efficient infrastructure is just as important to the economy now as the space race was for cold war dominance in the 1960s. And speaking of the 1960s, a time when the federal government focused squarely on its impoverished, yet growing cities, Maria Saporta from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution argues that these old urban policies represent fractions of what needs to be considered today and that, as many have also argued, the shift from suburbia to city-based wealth makes mobility and connection the first priority for urban revitalization.
-A lot has changed since then…
For readers of Next American City and other urban-focused publications, these arguments are nothing new. What is new is that this argument is becoming the news. Columnists are starting to peel their eyes off of skyrocketing gas prices, abandoning the wait for the buck-o-five gallon and a smarter President Bush, and accepting that this is life in modern America. To dial down the rhetoric, experts cited in Saporta’s artcle like Catherine Ross, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, have realized that the southeastern United States faces the biggest challenge because for the last seven years, the government has been a little stupid:
“Back in 2001, more than a dozen chambers of commerce in the Southeast formed an alliance to push the development of high-speed rail between the major cities. The Southeastern Economic Alliance was housed at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and provided an unusual level of cooperation among cities that often compete against each other when trying to attract companies. In the past couple of years, that effort has been dormant as the federal government has been reluctant to make a major investment in high-speed rail. But that could change after the November elections.”