Fast growth means new challenges loom

From an editorial Monday in the Fayetteville Observer:

Neither of these mottoes is likely to adorn North Carolina license plates anytime soon:

We’re No. 9

Bigger than Michigan

But both set forth a challenge for state leaders. How will one of the fastest-growing states keep up with the demands that accompany its expanding population?

According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, North Carolina has moved up a notch and now has the ninth-largest population in the country. Our population is expected to top 10 million in the next few months.

N.C. State University economist Michael Walden expects growth to continue, especially around Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle, with total population nearing 14 million by the middle of this century.

That’s a lot of people. Are we ready?

No, not really. While the governor has rolled out a thoughtful transportation-expansion plan it’s still missing some big pieces.

Our schools are shadowed by question marks as well. Crowding is a problem in many of our faster-growing counties. And budget battles in recent legislative sessions have left our schools with a shortage of teaching assistants and many demoralized teachers.

Our rising population will make this a richer place. But it also places new demands on infrastructure and education. Those issues need to be government’s high priority.