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Urban Boundaries

M/V Columbia at the city dock in Ketchikan
M/V Columbia at the city dock in Ketchikan. Geraldine Young, Alaska DOT&PF.

Every 10 years the United States Census Bureau conducts its decennial 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.

With the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau no longer recognizes urbanized areas and urban clusters. Rather, all qualifying areas with at least 5,000 persons or at least 2,000 housing units are considered urban areas. Click here to read the final Census Bureau criteria.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), however, still recognizes an Urbanized Area per 23 U.S.C. 101(a)(36).  FHWA and Alaska DOT&PF recognize the following:

  • Urbanized Areas - 50,000 or more persons
  • Urban Areas - at least 5,000 persons and less than 50,000

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

U.S. Census vs. Federal Highway Administration Urban Areas

Originally, the 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 (i.e.,2,000+ households). 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.

Alaska Urban Areas

The list below is the Urbanized and Urban Areas in Alaska based on the 2020 Census. Note that the population with an asterisk * is not recognized as Urban by FHWA because the population is below 5,000.

Urbanized Areas (50,000+ pop.)
Anchorage 249,252
Fairbanks 71,396
Wasilla-Knik-Fairview-North Lakes 53,444
Urban Clusters (2,500 – 49,999 pop.)
Anchorage Northeast 29,561
Juneau 24,756
Ketchikan 11,975
Kodiak-Mill Bay 9,530
Kenai 8,642
Sitka 7,668
Bethel 5,097
Soldotna *4,646

Click the following link to open a map of Alaska's Urban Areas:
Urban Boundaries 2023: Statewide (under FHWA review) (

For the full list of Urban Areas in the US go to: