Checking in at No. 11 in the nation—Austin
Mike Brown

I f you’ve ever driven much west of Rockdale, this won’t surprise you. In fact, this won’t surprise anyone who was born much later than about 1980.

The U. S. Census Bureau announced its population estimates recently and has proclaimed Austin as the 11th largest city in the United States.

I can clearly remember being impressed, and probably writing a column about it, when Austin cracked the top 25.

Wow, familiar old Austin, home of the state capitol, Earl Campbell and Cactus Pryor was right up there in the top 25.

Now? You can’t even see the state capitol with all the sureenough skyscrapers looming ever heavenward. Earl Campbell is a distinguished senior citizen.

And Cactus Pryor passed away several years ago.

The bureau estimates Austin’s population as 842,592. It also says our capitol city added 25,395 residents during the past year.

That’s a city the size of Seguin in one year.

Now, there’s a di f ference between a city and a metropolitan area. A city is, of course, what’s inside its city limits. A metropolitan area—called Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by the census bureau—includes the heavily populated areas around a city.

Austin’s MSA is composed of several counties, most notably Williamson and Hays. Now, here’s the impressive part. Austin’s suburbs are growing faster than the city itself.

The same group of estimates also listed the fastest growing large cities in the nation. And for statistical purposes, a large city is defined as a place with a population of 50,000 or greater.

Guess what the fastest growing large city in the nation is? Would you believe San Marcos?

You would if you ever sat on Aquarena Springs Drive— outside the college that has my son and most of my money—waiting through cycle after cycle of traffic lights so you could get on I-35 and eventually get to the miles long parking lot which stretches from Riverside Drive to Manor Road.

By the way, in the list of fastest growing large cities, San Marcos is first, Midland third, Cedar Park fourth, Georgetown seventh and Conroe 10th.

Thats right. Half of them are in Texas.

We haven’t even talked about Round Rock yet. I’m sure you’ve noticed that you can now “go to Austin” without ever actually setting foot inside Austin.

Round Rock is both part of Austin and a big city unto itself. Its population is now put at 106,573.

Round Rock— just Round Rock—is larger than San Angelo, Wichita Falls or College Station. Give it another three or four years and I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t surpass Waco.

Texas’ state demographer has analyzed the data. You’ve got to realize that part of the job of anyone who has a job like “state demographer” is to talk in such a way that you can’t understand what they’re saying. He says Texas has a huge population growth due to “domestic migration.”

That means “the yankees want to move here.”

The “migration opportunities” are being driven by a growing economy and jobs, according to the stat- crunchers, most particularly in the 70-mile stretch between Austin and San Antonio.

If you’ve driven that stretch lately, the “country” part is just about gone, replaced by Home Depots every dozen miles or so.

There’s an Internet group I’ve joined devoted to people remembering “Old Austin” before it disappears totally.

When I was probably in juniorhigh school, as a big treat some Fridays my folks would pick me up from school and we’d head to Austin.

It was a two-lane road and there was no loop around Taylor, which, along with Georgetown, were Williamson County’s largest cities.

Hutto was barely noticeable. And Round Rock? It was the place where you turned left to head down US 81 to Austin. There was farm land between Round Rock and Austin.

There was no Interstate 35. US 81 finally turned into Lamar Boulevard but not before passing a wide place in the road called Coxville, which had a little roadside zoo. (I think about where the zillion lane intersection with Parmer Road is today.)

There was farm land between Coxville and Austin.

It was miles before you felt like you were in a big city

You finally could see downtown, the capitol and the UT tower. Now they’re just two small spokes in a giant wheel.

I wonder how long it will be before Austin passes San Jose, CA and cracks the top 10.

It may have happened while you were reading this column.

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