MIDLAND, TEXAS–The self-styled hub of the “Petroplex,” Midland, is drawing up comprehensive municipal development plans to better absorb projected population surges of up to 200,000 residents for the next 14 years. City managers are now faced with the challenge of sustaining a local economic boom while making considerable investments in infrastructure–just to keep pace with conservative growth estimates.
Recent reports from the Midland City Council estimate that approximately $1.6 billion dollars will need to be spent over the next 14 years to keep pace with residential and industrial growth. City leaders figure that $1 billion of the total investment will likely be allocated to roads alone–and for good reason. When browsing local network television affiliate websites based in Midland/Odessa, a user may find news feeds clogged with multiple reports of severe traffic congestion and vehicular fatalities generally involving oilfield trucking equipment. The City of Midland does not currently offer a full loop highway or ample arterial roads.
Another challenge is the need for expanded annexation of the city itself. The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported Thursday on plans to boost square mileage from 73.7 miles to 120.1. The infrastructure investments may prove necessary, should the region continue to lead the nation in energy exploration and boast one of the lowest unemployment rates by county. In December 2013, Midland County held a 2.8 percent unemployment rate–down from 3.4 percent in January of that year.
Such investment may lead to sticker shock in the fiscal and cultural conservative region of the state–but the alternative may not seem as appealing. Nearby Big Spring City Council adopted a controversial measure in allowing residents to inhabit c-containers as alternative residential quarters in 2013. The move, despite the mayor’s disapproval, was made in an effort to boost supply of affordable housing in the town.
Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan expressed great concern over safety inspection procedures and safe parking arrangements around the developments. Overall, the mayor was not excited, “I don’t want Big Spring to become the C-Container hub of West Texas,” he told a local television station.
Oil and gas exploration is not the only emerging industry in Midland. In summer of 2012, XCOR Aerospace announced the development of its new commercial spaceflight research and development facility west of the city.
Midland Mayor Jerry Morales reminded residents of the need to keep looking forward, “We don’t want this community to get further behind…If the oil and gas industry, and the aerospace industry are going to be major factors in our economics, we need to begin laying that foundation.”
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