Planners and designers met Saturday to discuss traffic and safety improvements to South Florida Avenue in Lakeland.

  • Narrow sidewalks too close to the street, narrow lanes, and excessive truck traffic among issues currently seen on South Florida Avenue
  • Design workshop sponsored by FDOT and the City of Lakeland aims to discuss solutions
  • Planners wish to hear from the community before decisions on drastic changes made

Fixing South Florida Avenue is a major topic of discussion in Lakeland. It's a five-lane road that serves as one of the main north-south thoroughfares in the city.  

According to city leaders, between Ariana and Pine Streets narrow sidewalks too close to the street, narrow traveling lanes, and excessive truck traffic are among the most significant issues in need of solutions.

"It can be scary,” said resident Ken Bundy, who rides his bike on that stretch of road four days a week. "You got traffic whizzing by you at 40 miles per hour. I know it says 30, but it's 40, that's what they do. People just don’t see you, plus you have the traffic coming out of the side streets."

From May 14-20, planners and designers are in town, developing ideas for how to make the road safer. On Saturday they attended a design workshop sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Lakeland. The designers and planners were there to ask for the community's input.

Judi Piburn, founder of People Against Road Tragedy, was one of dozens of attendees.

"We'd like to have slower speeds and we'd like to have safer access for pedestrians, for bicyclists, for transit," said Piburn.

One of the options discussed during the design workshop was to convert this section of South Florida Avenue back to three lanes.

"Let's say that the numbers, the engineering numbers bear out that a three lane section would work, that would give you some real estate to make sidewalks wider, in some cases, even potentially provide on street parking,” explained Treasure coast Regional Planning Council Urban Planning Director Dana Little, one of the planners visiting to provide input at the workshop.

The planners don't want to make any drastic changes without hearing from the community.             

"We don't even know yet if reducing the number of lanes is a feasible option, so that's what we're exploring, but what we want to hear and what we need to hear from the community and what we're hearing already is that  something really needs to be done,” said Little.

The planners and designers will be at the Waller Center, located at 1065 South Florida Ave, Ste 2, during the week from 9 a.m - 9 p.m., testing ideas. Residents are asked to stop by if they have suggestions for changing the roadway.

On Friday, May 20, at 6 p.m., the group will present an overview of the community’s input and initial master plans. The presentation is taking place at the Polk Museum of Art.