Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

S. Florida Population Strains Area Resources Falling Short on Education, Transit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

S. Florida Population Strains Area Resources Falling Short on Education, Transit

Article excerpt

FORT LAUDERDALE -- After three decades as one of the nation's fastest-growing places, South Florida is feeling the strain of supporting an estimated 4.7 million people.

Vacant land is disappearing, traffic is among the fiercest in the country, and the water supply is stretched thin. In public-opinion polls, residents raise concerns about public schools, crime and the integrity of local government.

And the region, already the size of the Washington, D.C., metro area, is bracing itself for more. During the next 20 years, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are expected to greet as many as 2.3 million more people.

If the area is going to thrive, a sweeping new report says, South Florida has to start thinking like a major metropolitan area because its problems are too big for any one city or county to solve.

The region may be doing all right economically, but it is falling short on educating people, protecting natural resources, managing development and providing transportation, says the report released this week at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale.

"If we can help people understand the interconnections, we can do a much better job of remaining competitive," said Allan Wallis, a University of Colorado at Denver professor who wrote the report for Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities' Joint Center for Urban and Environmental Problems.

"If we don't," Wallis said, "there's a number of large potholes into which we might sink."

Wallis and his team are not the first to point to warning signs in South Florida or to say that its future hinges on better and broader planning. Nevertheless, he said, the new study might prod residents and officials to "shift from 'We're aware of this' to 'We've got to do something about it.' "

Carolyn Dekle, executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, sees the study as a step toward "a real requirement, or at least an incentive, to have regional decision-making," instead of a patchwork of local governments looking out for their own interests. …

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