HOUSTON (AP) — Oil equals boom — especially in population right now. And Texas, in the midst of a significant energy rush, is seeing its towns and cities burst at the seams.
Three of the nation's five fastest-growing cities — and seven of the top 15 — are in the Lone Star State, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, part of a trend across the West largely fueled by an oil boom. Most of the cities are West of the Mississippi.
Now these cities need to have enough roads, schools, water and infrastructure to keep up — the growing pains of a surging population. And while it is viewed as opportunity, city planners are frazzled.
Odessa, Texas, smack-dab in the middle of the oil-rich Permian Basin, is No. 11 on the Census Bureau list. People are flooding the oil fields, booming thanks to new hydraulic fracturing technologies that allow drillers access to once out-of-reach resources.
People are lured by higher-than-average salaries, but developers can't build homes quickly enough, the schools are rapidly filling and an overburdened water supply, made worse by a long drought, is stretched thin.
"It's a challenge to continue to provide services to the rising population when you're competing with the same workforce and labor that the oil field is. So that means that the municipalities have to adjust their pay scale ... to try to attract the labor," said Richard Morton, Odessa's city manager. "We're growing, but we're not growing fast enough."
The Texas cities of San Marcos, Frisco and Cedar Park were No. 1, 2 and 4 in percentage population growth between 2012 and 2013, each growing by at least 5 percent in that time span. Utah had two of the top five: South Jordan, at No. 3, and Lehi, at No. 5.
San Marcos — a city between Austin and San Antonio — has topped the list of expanding cities with more than 50,000 people for the second year in a row, showing growth of 8 percent between July 2012 and 2013 to 54,076 people.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero noted that while the city has been enjoying steady growth for years, and set aside money to keep up, not everything has gone as planned. The Great Recession and a sudden rise in costs forced San Marcos to delay major construction. Now, it is rushing to lay down new roads, expand existing ones, add bike paths and repair or replace old utility pipelines.
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