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Lakeland considering changes to S. Florida Ave.

Could go from five lanes to three
Posted at 5:31 PM, Feb 22, 2017

A busy Lakeland road could soon be getting a big makeover. South Florida Avenue has seen a lot of crashes, and many more close calls on a daily basis. The planned changes are aimed at making the area safer.

South Florida Avenue in the heart of Lakeland is extremely busy. It's made worse by tiny sidewalks and very narrow driving lanes. But a plan is in the works that could radically change the road.

Walking along South Florida Avenue, you flinch at just how close cars and big rigs come to clipping the curb.

"Many instances of close calls on our sidewalks," said TJ Zimmerman, co-owner of Concord Coffee in Lakeland.

TJ Zimmerman is part owner of a coffee shop right off the busy street in the Dixieland area of Lakeland. The neighborhood is experiencing a business boom, and with that, comes more traffic.

The concern is to keep the growth going, many feel changes are needed to make travelers feel more at ease.

"Safety is a big thing for me and my family and for this business," said Zimmerman.

That's why the city partnered with FDOT for a first of its kind study to find ways to improve safety and curb appeal.  The current proposal calls for doing a 'road diet', going from five skinny lanes to three wider ones with larger sidewalks.

"You've got to have public safety and traffic safety, but it would be nice if we could also do something to help that economic corridor," said Kevin Cook, city of Lakeland communications director.

Some worry that getting rid of traffic lanes will only add to traffic tie-ups.  But Zimmerman is convinced in the long run, the safety benefits and increasing foot traffic are worth a couple extra minutes in your commute.

If you want to learn more about the project, there's a public meeting with FDOT Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland.  You can also read up on the project and see artist renderings here.

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