Exploding the Myth with Facts

Richard P. Ellerbrake Jul. 1, 2007, 11:30pm

One of the contentions of those who want to build a Gateway Connector outer-belt from Troy, Illinois, to the Jefferson Barracks Bridge is that the Metro-East population is growing, thus requiring more highways.

Is there really massive growth in Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties? No! The population is barely increasing. For several years Stop158: Citizens for Smart Growth has been saying, "What may appear to be growth, isn't." U.S. Census Bureau tells the population story over the past six years.

Bottom line: most of the population change is internal movement; what looks like growth, isn't. It's rearranging the chairs, and trading in rocking chairs for highchairs.

Sprawl threatens us with its insatiable appetite for ever more taxes, public services, schools, fuel, traffic accidents, and threat to the environment, while the same number of people occupy more and more land at higher and higher total cost.

Here are the facts:

  • In July 2000, the population of the Metro-East was 543,082. Six years later, by July 2006, the three counties had gained an estimated 15,016 persons, for a total of 558,098.

  • It took six years to grow just 2.76%.

  • Only 3,158 more people moved into the three counties than moved out. About one third of those moving here came from other countries. About 80% of the increase is the result of more births than deaths.

  • The Metro-East had about the same number of people in 1970 (555,333). That's almost zero growth in the last 36 years. The population has gone up or down slightly from year to year, but clearly, there is no massive movement to the Metro-East.

    What about the rest of the area?

    The remainder of the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area gained only 3.67% since 2000, yet its slow growth rate is still about a third faster than the Metro-East. In recent years this gap in the growth rate is widening.

    Interestingly, over these six years those who came from other countries almost exactly equal the number who left the area for somewhere else in the United States. In short, the St. Louis area had a net outward migration to the US and a net inward migration from other countries.

    Stop158: Citizens for Smart Growth believes it is important to know the facts so we can plan a future together based on reality, not myth.

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