The South Florida Avenue road diet project

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This vivid sign welcomes you to the equally colorful Dixieland Historic District.

Photo by @lkldced

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Dieting isn’t only applicable to our food + drink consumption. There is currently a South Florida Avenue Master Plan in the works that includes a road diet pilot project through the Dixieland area. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is holding an open-house style public meeting today from 4-7 p.m., in Sikes Hall at the RP Funding Center, to allow citizens to drop by for a chance to review plans + discuss the pilot project with traffic planners, from FDOT and the City of Lakeland, who will be available to answer any questions. ⁉️

What is this project, anyway?

Now, track with us here. There are a number of safety concerns with the current configuration of Florida Ave. between Ariana St. and Pine St. The narrow lane widths + sloped sidewalk configurations do not comply with state and federal design standards. Due to the limited amount of room between building face to building face, options to improve the corridor are extremely limited and street widening is not an option. The road diet pilot project will reduce the number of lanes from five to three, so that FDOT can better understand the traffic impacts of lane re-configuration.

Why are we doing this again?

The master plan indicates that 174 crashes occurred within the corridor between 2011 and 2014, with 75% involving injuries (a very high level for a street within the core of a city). The Polk Transportation Planning Organization also conducted countywide bicycle + pedestrian analyses in 2015 that identified this section of Florida Ave. as a top 10 crash corridor. FDOT believes that converting Florida Ave. from five to three lanes will divert 2,000-5,000 vehicles per day to other streets and increase driving times through the Dixieland corridor by 17 to 50 seconds. Crashes will also reduce by an estimated 30%.

What is the long-term picture?

This road diet is a test project that will be conducted for at least a year to study traffic movements and the viability of a more permanent solution. The data collected will provide FDOT with the tools necessary to make an informed decision on the future of Florida Avenue.

What you think about the project

Agree something needs done, but taking it down to 3 lanes is not the answer. It’s the main connector between north and south Lakeland. Traffic buildup will be awful. It should start by limiting to non-commercial vehicles only. Large trucks and other large vehicles should be made to make alternate route(s).” – Brenda H.

I know most people are against the road diet, but I think it’s a great idea! Will it be slightly less convenient? Yes. But will it make this city more walking-friendly? Also yes. I think it will encourage more people to walk and bike around, as well as extend the downtown area.” – Andrea M.

I have lived in Dixieland before and I find it is a good idea to reduce the existing roadway but what about “rush” hour traffic? It is a mess now but what will it become?” – Carole R.

Ridiculous.” – Marie C.

Where do all the diverted cars go? Lakeland has too few north - south corridors.” – Keith + Terri B.

It’s going to put a lot of traffic through other residential neighborhoods, such as Lake Morton and Hollingsworth on one side or New York Ave. on the other., as well as excess speeders on a busy Sykes to Hardin Blvd by Lakeland Christian school that has issues already, safety for the children getting to and from school safely. Plus you have traffic off Kathleen Road from I-4 to and fro that is crazy busy....better watch out for speeders. At least on Florida speed is kept down at the present. People need to adjust their travel time to work and home, school, etc or it will be “crazy” driving time.” – Carol O.

I think that it is a great idea to restore safety in the area for cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Very dangerous area. The beautification of the area will also have a great impact for the revival of the area.” – Thomas S.

Cutting five lanes to three is not the answer to the congestion on South Florida Avenue. Why not eliminate the turning lane? This would allow the remaining four lanes to be widened to something bigger than a mid sized car. Most pickup trucks can’t stay in the narrow lanes. I’ve seen it time and time again. People driving next to the sidewalk panic and veer into the adjacent lane causing that car to enter the turning lane.” – Wendi W.

Diets don’t work, especially road diets! How on earth do you divert 2-5K veh/day to other streets? Sikes can handle more traffic, but Massachusetts can’t. The original recommendations (from 2 yrs ago) called for diverting truck traffic around the city. Is that still on? The proposed lanes look wide enough for cars, but not busses/trucks. What about busses stopping in the single lane of traffic? Under the road diet, will sidewalks be widened?” – George L.

I drive that stretch of S. Florida Ave. every day. I predict massive gridlock extending well north of downtown. Even this proposed one-year trial will cause significant traffic issues for those who travel this route.” – Neil S

There are already traffic issues going from the north to south direction on South Florida Avenue; this “resolution” is only going to cause more congestion. I actually live in the area of Southgate Shopping Center and already have problems getting onto my street into my own neighborhood. These problems occur when drivers do not leave access to the side streets or when these drivers actually do not stop when the traffic lights are changing to red and block the intersections! The city needs to correct the traffic problems that are already happening before creating more!” – David D.

It’s definitely too dangerous the way it is now and needs to be changed. I’m uncomfortable walking the sidewalk in that area and avoid it as much as possible. I hope this new configuration plus more enforcement of the speed limit and the running of red lights will make it safer.” – Tom M.

I think you need to do a thorough check on what the impact of extra traffic in the neighborhoods will be. Locate some alternate routes. You have to realize that squeezing that large number of vehicles into one lane will cause back ups and people are going to want to avoid that. Why not eliminate the turning lanes to be able to widen the road, add traffic lights at all intersections with turn signals, and have an industrial engineer figure out the optimal light pattern?” – Michele H.

As a business owner along the Dixieland/ South Florida Ave. corridor, I welcome the road diet test, and hope it will ultimately be implemented.” – Ben M.

I won’t be traveling on that route any more when the change takes place. Will find alternate routes.” – Robert B.

Florida Avenue traffic is not good now and this will make it much worse. In addition, it will send drivers to alternate routes that are already overcrowded major arteries or residential neighborhoods. It makes me thankful that I recently moved to NE Lakeland and only need to travel that area 2x a week instead of every day, as I had been. I am sorry that my former neighbors will have to go through this, without solving the high traffic volume needs.” – Denorah Z.

The road through downtown needs to be reduced. People speed and cut in and out like they are on I-4. It is insane to have a road with that much traffic to be 5 lanes. I am in FAVOR of it.” – Mark W.

This seems like a step backward for a congested part of a main road, seemingly a strategy to move traffic off Florida Ave, but to where?” – Rita T.

I’m optimistic for this road diet. I would love a more pedestrian friendly downtown core. The stretch of road in Dixieland doesn’t need to encourage people to drive through Lakeland faster; it’s an opportunity to encourage small business development and a better sense of community.” – Erin F.

All it will take is one bus stop and traffic will be backed up for blocks. Meanwhile thousands of vehicles will be wandering around in neighborhoods running over pets and people trying to head north and others like me will just avoid the downtown area and S. Florida Drive north of Edgewood Drive.” – Edward M.

My concern is where will all the diverted traffic go? Through smaller side streets? Down to Harden? I live on Harden just south of the Polk Parkway and while the speed limit posted is 30 no one follows the law and it is rare to see it enforced here.” – Leigh T.

Leave it alone, enforce current traffic laws universally in all of Lakeland! No phone texting, no speeding, better use of turn lights, enforce reckless driving rules.” – George F.

– LALtoday team (Jessica and Kaylee)