More funding required to take South Florida Avenue road diet to the finish line

We’re breaking down the key updates on one of Lakeland’s most notable roadway projects.

Two city and state officials discuss behind a desk.

FDOT District One Secretary L.K. Nandam shares his thoughts on the Dixieland road diet in a meeting with the Lakeland City Commission and Chamber of Commerce.

Screenshot via City of Lakeland

On Monday, April 1, city officials met with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to discuss Lakeland transportation. The hottest topic of the afternoon? The Dixieland road diet.

During the public meeting, city commissioners learned that the project’s completion could hinge on additional funding from the city, despite South Florida Avenue being a state road. FDOT originally budgeted ~$9 million for the project through 2027, but due to inflation, there’s a significant amount of additional capital needed.

While the official amount of required additional capital is worked out between the city and FDOT, a formal engineering and design study needs to be completed. When Commissioner Bill Read expressed concerns over where the city could obtain the capital, FDOT suggested seeking out private donor partners.


Illustration by Ayres Associates Inc. of the approved design for South Florida Avenue, a two-lane street divided by median with 12-ft shared bike/pedestrian sidewalks.

Image by @lakelandgov

In July 2022, city commissioners reviewed 10 design options + public feedback for the mile-long stretch of roadway from Ariana Street to Lime Street. That December, they voted on a three-lane option that was anticipated to take 12-18 months to design.

Now, this phase is expected to take an additional 18-24 months due to aging infrastructure discovered underneath the roadway. With this in mind, Planning and Transportation Manager Chuck Barmby said the earliest start date for construction could be 2027.

Concrete road barriers outside of Dixieland businesses as taken from the perspective of a vehicle passenger.

The concrete barriers installed as part of the road diet are a major contention point for Lakelanders.

Photo by @thelaltoday

As for the concrete barriers located on either side of the street, FDOT approved their removal — at the city’s expense. If removed, South Florida Avenue would still be condensed to four lanes across at most, with two travel lanes in each direction.