This week, snow hit the Washington, D.C. area and commuters received a treat. I’m not talking about the beautiful white landscape, although that certainly was there. I mean that commuters, when the federal government shut down, got to experience what driving would be like if area population was dramatically smaller. That's a rare treat, indeed, in an area where population is booming, driven by immigration.
In Fairfax County, Virginia where I live, the population increased 5.2 percent (about 57,000 people) between 2010 and 2016. 30.3 percent of those residing in the county are now foreign-born. The increases were larger in nearby Prince William and Loudoun Counties where population increased 13.2 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively, during the same period. 22.8 percent of Prince William residents and 23.4 percent of Loudoun County residents are now foreign born.
These increases are substantial but the long-term picture is stunning. Virginia’s population increased 35 percent from 1990 to 2015, to nearly 8.4 million people and is expected to grow by an additional 25 percent by 2040. Virginia’s foreign-born population grew by more than 200 percent since 1990. 1 in 9 residents are now foreign born. Taking into account their U.S.-born children, immigrants are responsible for 45 percent of Virginia’s total population growth in recent decades.
As a result, commuter traffic is somewhere between bad and horrible, just about every day. If the average Virginia commute was about an hour each day in 2013, what will it be in 2040 when 25 percent more people are present? The population boom has other downsides as well. Increased sprawl. A degraded Virginia infrastructure and water supply. Wages are driven down while housing costs are driven up. And school systems are unable to cope.
The D.C. area is not unique in this regard. Many central cities face similar challenges thanks to immigration-based population growth. And many are quickly reaching a tipping point because the growth is unsustainable.
The solution is simple and within reach. Congress must limit immigration to ensure responsible population growth. Otherwise, 50 years from now, shutting down the federal government won’t be a treat for D.C. commuters. It will hardly cause a dent in traffic.
Updated: Fri, Apr 6th 2018 @ 4:50pm EDT