TL;DR Question: I want to calculate distance from point to edge of nearest polygon for 2,000 points in Continental United States. What is the best projection to use?
Full Question: I have two datasets. First, I have long/lat data for the point of origin of ~2,000 wildfires in the United States. Second, I have a shapefile for Census Designated Places (created by merging shapefiles for individual states from the US Census' website: https://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/cbf/cbf_place.html).
I want to calculate the distance from each of these fires to the edge of the nearest Census Designated Place. Typically, I believe that I would do this using "Generate Near Table" in the ArcToolbox. However, the Census Designated Places shapefile uses a geographic coordinate system (GCS_North_American_1983). So I think I need to change the coordinate system to one that allows me to correctly estimate distance. Unfortunately, I don't know which is the best projection to use.
Would USA Contiguous Equidistant Conic be a safe choice for calculating distances for so many points spread across such a large area?