Image: Packed New York street
Gregory Bull  /  AP file
Shoppers pack New York's 34h Street in a December 2003 file photo. The city of 8.2 million is expected to grow by at least 1 million people over the next 25 years.
updated 12/13/2006 2:53:09 PM ET 2006-12-13T19:53:09

By the year 2030, New York City could have so many people straining its infrastructure that it won’t have enough electricity or housing to meet demand and rush hour traffic will last all day.

The city of 8.2 million people must start planning and building now for the expected growth of 1 million more over the next 25 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a panel of experts warned.

“We now have the freedom to take on the obstacles looming in the city’s future and to begin clearing them away before they become rooted in place,” Bloomberg said Tuesday.

Some of the findings presented Tuesday by a team of city planners, academics, scientists and environmentalists who have spent the past year studying the city’s infrastructure and assessing its viability to cope include:

  • In 25 years, rails and roads will be “crammed beyond capacity” and won’t be able to accommodate the swarm of commuters during what is now considered normal rush hour. Lawmakers must act now to not only expand the road network but also to update the subway system, which was built starting in 1901 and still uses signal and switch technology developed before the 1940s.

  • The city will need thousands more housing units. And it has to be affordable — already, more than a third of city renters fork over more than half their income for rent, the group said.

  • Energy demand could exceed supply by as early as 2012, and by 2030 the majority of the city’s power plants will be more than 50 years old. The city needs to improve efficiency, use alternative energy sources and modernize its grid, which was built in the 1920s.

New York must not only meet the needs of its growing population but has to stay competitive as a global city, said Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonpartisan planning group.

“We can’t put our head in the sand,” he said. “We know that Shanghai and London and other great world cities that are competing with us are making plans like these and are doing a great job of building new economies and building the infrastructure systems.”

Suggestions offered by the expert panel included taxing vehicles that drive into Manhattan’s most heavily trafficked neighborhoods, called congestion pricing, and charging residents by the pound for the trash they throw out.

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