[Source: Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times] — As outlying sagebrush was quickly devoured by starter homes and chain stores, Las Vegas began grappling with the kinds of problems that long have vexed California: Crowded classrooms. Packed freeways. Not enough water. Immigrants who struggle to learn English. Rising poverty. Similar issues have bedeviled the areas around Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque. By 2040, Las Vegas and its four brethren will grow by nearly 12.7 million people.
While a booming population is turning the Intermountain West into an economic force and political battleground, a Brookings Institution report released today suggests that without help from the federal government, its major cities are headed for trouble. “These places are going to be overwhelmed if they’re left to go it alone,” said Mark Muro, policy director of the nonpartisan think tank’s Metropolitan Policy Program.
Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah — a region the study dubbed the “new American Heartland” — was the least developed part of the U.S. in 1950. There isn’t even an interstate linking Las Vegas and Phoenix because they were mere blips when the nation’s highway system was mapped out. But from 2000 to 2007, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah boasted the nation’s top three population growth rates; the Las Vegas area alone jumped 31%, to more than 2 million people. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]