Megaregions are extended transportation and communication networks of metropolitan centers and their surrounding areas that often cross county and state boundaries. The southeastern United States has been identified as an emerging Megaregion, where recent and projected settlement patterns and infrastructure systems encourage social, economic, and environmental links between the many parts of the region. Between now and the year 2050, more than half of the nation's population growth and as much as two-thirds of its economic growth will occur in megaregions.
Several issues are megaregional due to their large spatial scope, inter-related nature, and impact on future generations. A short list of current issues that exceed traditional political boundaries include:
- Population growth, increasing urbanization, and traffic congestion
- Struggling educational system, increasing global competition, and growing inequality
- Ecosystem degradation, declining air quality, and competition for water sources
These issues and their common characteristics call for a new framework for planning and public investment that is cross-disciplinary, regional, and far-sighted. It is for these reasons, as well as lessons from abroad, that the megaregions concept has emerged. While it is relatively new to the United States, other countries have successfully adopted a large-scale regional planning framework to build economic competitiveness and improve the quality of life of their citizens.