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Urban Boundaries

Runway photoTed Stevens International Airport, Anchorage. Photo by Dave Krause, DOT&PF.

Every 10 years The United States Census Bureau conucts its deciennal census of the United States. Part of this process includes determining Urban and Rural areas. The Census Bureau’s urban-rural classification is a delineation of geographical areas, identifying both individual urban areas and the rural areas of the nation. The Census Bureau’s urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land uses. The Census Bureau delineates urban areas after each decennial census by applying specified criteria to decennial census and other data.

The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas:

  • Urbanized Areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people;
  • Urban Clusters (UCs) of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people.

“Rural” encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area.

Difference between U.S. Census and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) definitions of Urban

Originally, FHWA adopted the same definitions used by the U.S. Census Bureau for Urban areas (population concentrations greater than 5,000). Since then, the U.S. Census has modified their definition to the criteria listed above. FHWA continues to use the original level of 5,000 to designate urban areas. This can cause confusion, especially in areas that fall in the 2,500-4,999 range. For more information about U.S. Census Urban and Rural boundaries visit their Frequently Asked Questions page.

Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters in Alaska

The table below lists the Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters in Alaska based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Note that the gray shaded Urban Clusters are not recognized as Urban Areas by FHWA because their population is below 5,000.


Urbanized Areas
Community Population
Anchorage 251,243
Fairbanks 64,513
Urban Clusters
Lakes--Knik--Fairview--Wasilla 44,236
Anchorage Northeast 28,568
Juneau 24,537
Ketchikan 10,352
Kodiak 9,335
Sitka 7,027
Soldotna 6,526
Kenai 4,921
Bethel 4,434
Barrow 3,835
Nome 3,222
Kotzebue 3,200
Eielson AFB 2,944


To view Urban Boundary maps, please visit our Urban Boundary GIS Map.


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