Lakeland leaders approve S. Florida Avenue 'road diet'

LAKELAND, Fla. — With each year that goes by, more and more people seem to be moving to Lakeland.

A positive note for the city, but for drivers, it’s become more of a hassle.

City leaders are trying to curb crashes and congestion by what they call a ‘road diet.'

Because South Florida Avenue cannot be widened, experts are seeing if fewer, wider, lanes could help clear up the issues.

“It’s a very complicated corridor, there’s a lot of road in a very tight amount of space,” Chuck Barmby, the Transportation and Planning Review Manager for the city says there have been complaints about this stretch for years.

Lakeland’s City Commissioners unanimously approved the plan to test the theory out last week.

The plan will test Lime Street-Ariana Street along S. Florida Avenue. 

The road will transform from five narrow lanes — to just three wide lanes. 

“The hope is is that whatever is done in the Corridor will actually improve the conditions for all users not just drivers,” Barmby said.

Dixieland is an up and coming part of Lakeland, an area the CRA has been working on diligently for the past several years.

With improvements, more and more foot traffic seems to be coming along with the interest of the area and local shops.

Something, business owners say they don’t want to lose.

“There are tons of people that walk in here. Being outside and walking seems to be has gotten very popular everybody likes to get out with the family friends,” Allyson Barr, who owns Low Country Vintage, said.

The multi-million dollar project will be funded both by the city and by FDOT.

Construction likely will not begin for another two years, then the test will last about one full year.

After that, experts will determine what worked and what didn’t.

If the test turns out to be a complete failure, the city will then either change it back or amend the changes to specifications that the test determined.

Drivers say they’re not sure if the idea sounds good.

“I guess on paper it seems good but, thinking about it  I don’t really see how it would work so well,” William Lewicke said.

The design will be complete by the 2019 fiscal year.

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