Piedmont Atlantic megaregion

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US map showing the 11 emerging megaregions, with the Piedmont Atlantic shown in green, located between the Great Lakes and Florida megaregions

The Piedmont Atlantic megaregion is a neologism created by the Regional Plan Association for an area of the Southeastern United States that includes the Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham), and Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point metropolitan areas. The megaregion generally follows the Interstate 85/20 corridor. According to Georgia Tech, the Piedmont Atlantic represents over 12 percent of the total United States population and covers over 243,000 square miles (630,000 km2) of land.

The Piedmont Atlantic megaregion is just one emergent megalopolis (also known as a megaregion) of eleven such regions in the continental United States. Half of the nation's population growth and two-thirds of its economic growth are expected to occur within those regions over the next four decades.


Studies by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech identify the 85/20 corridor in the Southeastern United States area as an "emergent" megalopolis including the primary cities of Atlanta, Birmingham, Greenville, Spartanburg, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, and Raleigh with Atlanta being the largest metropolitan area and Charlotte being the largest city. Both studies refer to the area as the Piedmont megalopolis.

The Georgia Tech survey defines the region narrowly, focusing on the urban and suburban counties between Birmingham and Raleigh, and the rural counties that explicitly link those urban and suburban counties.

The Virginia Tech study proposes a broader definition, which would also include Columbus, Macon, Huntsville, Augusta, Columbia, Knoxville, Chattanooga, the Tri-Cities, Asheville and a number of smaller cities. The western extent of this definition is deeply disconnected from the remainder of the region by the Appalachian Mountains range, and is economically not well-integrated into the greater region. Other locales mentioned in the Virginia Tech study remain disconnected from the region's core, separated by dozens of miles of deeply rural areas.

Both reports highlight the "emergent" nature of this possible megalopolis, noting comparatively low urban densities, but also noting a pattern in growth (in the individual, component urban areas) towards each other. As of 2005, this region (as defined in the Virginia Tech study) has a population of 19 million.

The Piedmont Atlantic central Metropolitan Areas are located on the southern Piedmont region which gives the megaregion its name. The Piedmont is located between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic coastal plain. The surface relief of the Piedmont is characterized by relatively low, rolling hills with heights above sea level between 200 feet (50 m) and 800 feet to (rarely) 1,000 feet (250 m to 300 m).

The region has a diverse economy ranging in many different industries. Henry W. Grady of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the term New South to describe the American South, in whole or in part. The term "New South" is used in contrast to the Old South's plantation system of the antebellum period, to a new Industrial region. Since then Atlanta has grown from a small railway town into a major business, convention and transportation hub. Atlanta is now considered an "Alpha-World City" according to GaWC 2010 at Loughborough University by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network. Charlotte in the Piedmont Crescent has grown to become a major U.S. financial center, and the nation's 2nd largest financial center. Birmingham boomed after the Civil War as a major industrial center in the Southern United States, the city's economy has diversified into banking, insurance, medicine, publishing, and biotechnology. The region of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill is known as the Research Triangle, named for the Research Triangle Park, which is the largest research park in the United States and one of its most prominent high-tech research and development centers. Upstate South Carolina, a region including Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson has been given foreign investment and has become the fastest growing region in the U.S. state of South Carolina.

A 2008 aerial photo of Atlanta's urban core viewed from the Southwest near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Downtown Atlanta (in the foreground) is followed by Midtown, and then Buckhead. Sandy Springs and Dunwoody's Perimeter Center skyline is visible in the background. In 2013, the entire Atlanta metro had a population of 6,162,195. It is the largest metro area within the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion.


Charlotte is the largest city in the region with a 2017 population of 859,035
Raleigh had a 2013 metro population of 1,214,516 and is considered one of the fastest growing areas in the United States

Primary statistical areas (PSAs) within the Piedmont Atlantic megalopolis[2]

Rank Primary statistical area Anchor city(s) State(s) Population (2018)[3]
1 Atlanta–Athens-Clarke County–Sandy Springs Atlanta GA 7,168,535 (as of 10/10/2021)
2 Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia Charlotte NC / SC 2,569,213
3 Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Raleigh NC 2,238,315
4 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro Nashville TN 1,932,099
5 Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point Greensboro and Winston-Salem NC 1,677,551
6 Greenville–Spartanburg–Anderson Greenville SC 1,479,030
7 Memphis–Forrest City Memphis TN / MS / AR 1,350,131
8 Birmingham–Hoover–Talladega Birmingham AL 1,368,552
9 Knoxville–Morristown–Sevierville Knoxville TN 1,134,845
10 Chattanooga–Cleveland–Dalton Chattanooga TN / GA / AL 965,499
11 Columbia–Orangeburg–Newberry Columbia SC 953,619
12 Charleston-North Charleston Charleston SC 787,643
13 Huntsville–Decatur–Albertville Huntsville AL 782,233
14 Augusta-Richmond County-Martinez Augusta GA 605,903
15 Fayetteville–Lumberton–Laurinburg Fayetteville NC 553,735
16 Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol Kingsport TN / VA 510,483
17 Columbus–Auburn–Opelika Columbus GA / AL 504,705
18 Asheville–Brevard Asheville NC 493,800
19 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Hickory NC 368,416
Total 26,932,748


Interstate I-85 and I-20 are the main corridors, and the major Interstates which are intersected are the I-59, I-95, I-40, I-73, I-74, I-77, I-26, I-75 and I-65. The gateway cities of Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington all serve as seaports for the Piedmont Atlantic Region. Within the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion there are six international airports, nine when including those located in the aforementioned gateway cities.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the region and in the world. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is the second busiest airport in the region and the 17th busiest airport in the world. In addition to Charlotte and Atlanta, other airports in the region with direct, non-stop airline service outside North America include: Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Charleston International Airport, and Nashville International Airport. Other major airports in the region include: Piedmont Triad International Airport, Asheville Regional Airport, Wilmington International Airport, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Huntsville International Airport, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Myrtle Beach International Airport, Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Hilton Head Airport, McGhee Tyson Airport, and Memphis International Airport, which is the world's busiest airport by most cargo traffic by weight annually.

Megaregion as a unit[edit]

The Piedmont Atlantic is the fastest growing megaregion in the United States. The megaregion is facing challenges with its growing population, increased traffic congestion, and inadequate infrastructure. Mayors, businesses, and academic professionals have organized the Piedmont Alliance for Quality Growth to help address these problems with sustainable solutions. With the goal of focusing on the growth of the megaregion, they have called for less competition between cities and metropolitan areas in the same region, and a stronger and more cohesive ability to work together to compete on the global scale. The major issues facing the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion include conflicts over shared natural resources such as water and problems of transportation infrastructure such as upkeep of roads and railways linking cities. Many of the issues cities or metropolitan areas face cannot be solved by action on a local scale. A megaregion as a unit working together is an advantage in economics and quality of life within the region.[citation needed]


The culture of the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion is a subset of the culture of the greater Southern United States. It is mainly a combination of the cultures of Georgia and North Carolina, as these two states have the greatest populations by far of the five states that make up the region, and contain most of the region's major cities.


Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Bank of America Stadium
Bryant–Denny Stadium
Clemson Memorial Stadium

[4] Professional sports teams in the region include:

College athletics teams in the so-called Power Five conferences include:

Notable sports competitions include:

Notable motorsport racetracks include:


Charlotte hosts the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Discovery Place, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Uptown Mint Museum, Carowinds Amusement Park, Bank of America Headquarters, U.S. National Whitewater Center, and the Billy Graham Library. The nearby North Carolina Zoological Park is located in Asheboro in Randolph County, North Carolina in the Uwharrie Mountains and Uwharrie National Forest. At over 500 acres (200 ha), it is the largest walk-through zoo in the world. Crowders Mountain State Park in Gastonia provides hiking and rock climbing opportunities.

Atlanta hosts 37 million tourists every year. Attractions include the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Center, Georgia Aquarium, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, Road Atlanta, Six Flags Over Georgia, Stone Mountain Park, and World of Coca-Cola.

Chattanooga hosts the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway.

Birmingham, at the southern end of the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion, is home to several museums; the largest is the Birmingham Museum of Art, which is also the largest municipal art museum in the Southeast. The area's history museums include Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which houses a detailed and emotionally charged narrative exhibit putting Birmingham's history into the context of the Civil Rights Movement located at the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Birmingham Civil Rights District. The Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark and the Vulcan statue and museum that overlooks the city and provides views from atop Red Mountain details the industrial history of the area. Other Birmingham area attractions include Alabama Adventure Amusement Park, McWane Science Center, Red Mountain Park, Birmingham Botanical Gardens (United States), and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The Birmingham area also includes two prominent race tracks, Talladega Superspeedway and Barber Motorsports Park and museum, which features over 1400 motorcycles and race cars and is the largest collection of motorcycles in the world. Greenville, South Carolina, offers Falls Park on the Reedy, a 32-acre (130,000 m2) park adjacent to downtown in the historic West End district.

The Appalachian mountains provide many outdoor opportunities, including hiking, road and mountain biking, driving and motorcycling, rafting, and kayaking. Major attractions in the region are the area around Asheville, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the US's most visited National Park), the Blue Ridge Parkway (the US's other most visited park), Mt Mitchell (the highest mountain in the eastern US), the Appalachian Trail, the Chatooga Wild and Scenic River, the Jocassee Gorges, Grandfather Mountain, the Ocoee River, the Tail of the Dragon, and Pisgah National Forest.

The region also has multiple major national and state parks. These include:

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway (NC & VA)
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC & TN)
  • Mt Michell State Park (NC)
  • Chimney Rock State Park (NC)
  • Grandfather Mountain State Park (NC)
  • Gorges State Park (NC)
  • Hanging Rock State Park (NC)
  • Crowders Mountain State Park (NC)
  • King's Mountain National Military Park (SC)
  • Table Rock State Park (SC)
  • Ceaser's Head and Jones Gap State Parks (SC)
  • Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area (SC)
  • Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest (GA)
  • Tallulah Gorge State Park (GA)
  • Lookout Mountain (TN & GA)
  • Lake Guntersville State Park (AL)
  • Joe Wheeler State Park (AL)


The area is home to a number of colleges and universities, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Department of Economic Development". Greenville SC. Greenville SC. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
  2. ^ Excerpted from List of primary statistical areas of the United States
  3. ^ "Census Reporter, 2018 ACS". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Nashville Sounds", Wikipedia, 2023-05-07, retrieved 2023-05-10
  5. ^ "Rocket City Trash Pandas chosen as new Madison baseball team's name". 5 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]