In late April, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began construction in Lakeland for the Road Diet Test and Traffic Study through the city's Dixieland area along South Florida Avenue. The $950,000 project will construct a new traffic pattern on the avenue from Ariana Street to Lime Street in downtown Lakeland.
The new traffic pattern includes reducing South Florida Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one lane each way with a center turn lane. Once in place, the new traffic pattern will be studied for effectiveness over the next year by the FDOT.
From its beginning, the construction on the South Florida Avenue road diet project is expected to take five months to complete, explained Chuck Barmby, the City of Lakeland's transportation planner.
"We continue to get a lot of questions regarding the impact to neighboring side streets and we are certainly going to measure that along with other traffic patterns during the one-year test period that will start when the construction is complete," he added. "It is also important for the community to know that the Citrus Connection established a new bus route called the Peach Line that does not have any stops in the one-mile construction zone."
Visitors to the area know that traffic lanes are much narrower through the study area than today's standards and sidewalks are right next to the busy roadway. These safety concerns moved FDOT to initiate the South Florida Avenue traffic study through the Dixieland area in 2016. This "first-of-its kind" study in Florida included traditional transportation analyses, and innovative components such as a marketing analysis, a day-long community planning meeting (known as a charrette), a week-long design studio within a storefront on the corridor, as well as public meetings and interviews with stakeholders in the study area.
The Road Diet Test study also evaluated potential development sites, parking inventory, and short- and long-term transportation alternatives, including a road diet plan through which Florida Avenue would be reduced from four to two through lanes between Ariana Street and Pine Street.
Following the FDOT's completion of the corridor study, the state agency conducted a more detailed walk-through of the Florida Avenue passage through which participants identified safety, maintenance and other physical problems with the road that could be addressed through routine upkeep and stand-alone construction projects – all of which gave rise to the start of planning on the current Road Diet project.
For more information, visit http://bit.ly/LakelandRoadDietTest.