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Study Says More Growth Ahead for Triangle

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MORRISVILLE — You probably don't need us to tell you the Triangle is getting crowded. Now, new studies confirm that the growth is not going to stop any time soon.

Large-scale growth will continue unabated in the Triangle for the next quarter-century, with Wake County and its outskirts bearing the brunt of it, forecasts by two planning groups show.

The projections, compiled and analyzed byThe News & Observerof Raleigh, suggest the number of jobs in the Triangle will more than double over the next quarter century. That far exceeds a 1996 forecast by the Bureau of Economic Analysis predicting employment in the Triangle would rise only 42 percent during that period.

"I think that people are just going to fall over when they see the potential for how Raleigh's going to grow," said Raleigh demographer Cindy Szwarckop.

Her projections indicate Raleigh will add nearly 110,000 residences and more than 144,000 jobs. Much of the growth would center on Interstate 40, near the airport and the sports arena now being built in west Raleigh. Northeast Raleigh also will continue to boom, she said.

In addition, Holly Springs is expected to add more than 22,000 housing units -- the largest percentage increase in the Triangle.

The analysis shows Orange and Durham counties will continue to grow, but at a slower rate. The new jobs and subdivisions, however, will affect the entire region.

"I-40 is a parking lot now, at least during rush hours," said Mike Jennings, Wake County planning director. "Very few people have an idea of how congested it will get in the years ahead."

The projections were prepared by two planning groups -- one for Wake County towns and the other for the western Triangle. The groups have partly completed a transportation plan looking ahead to 2025.

The groups are using census data, land records and development trends to predict what the housing and job markets will look like, as well as how household incomes may change. Cities and counties are factoring in current zoning, expected boom areas and upcoming road construction, among other things.

Other projections by the planning groups:
  • Clayton, in a quarter-century, will be as big as Cary is now, about 85,000 residents.
  • Morrisville will have six times as many homes as it does now.
  • Cary, despite its recent revolt against growth, will add 60,000 residences and more than 90,000 jobs.
  • Raleigh plans to double its mix of homes and apartments and add three times as many jobs as exist now at Research Triangle Park.
  • For people who remember when there was a long woodsy road between Raleigh and Durham, when the site of Crabtree Valley Shopping Center was a large field, when the airport terminal was a structure that looked like a house, it's clear that growth and change have arrived. And, as the reports indicate, they aren't leaving.

    Billy Hartness, a Morrisville resident, has seen it for himself.

    "When we moved in, there weren't but about 500 people in this whole town," he says.

    Now Hartness is one of about 2200 Morrisville residents. He's lived here since 1978 and has seen the growth over the years.

    "We've had a lot of apartments and people moving in -- the airport and Research Triangle Park have brought a lot of people into this area," Hartness says.

    Clayton residents may need to accept Billy Hartness' assessment: "You just have to put up with it, I reckon."

    The study shows the population boom won't be felt as much in Durham and Orange Counties; their growth will occur at a slower pace.

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    Laurie Clowers, Reporter
    Greg Clark, Photographer
    Kay Miller, Web Editor

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