POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Lakeland city leaders are still trying to figure out how to improve South Florida Avenue.
Right now, they’re looking at different options, but many business owners in the area don’t like what’s currently in place.
For more than 60 years, Bent’s Cycling & Fitness has remained a staple on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland, even after the city cut the road down from five lanes to three (two lanes with median/dual left turn lane) and widened them by four feet to improve safety.
But Bent’s manager, Zack Kulp, said he believes the current design is causing more issues.
“Less people want to take this road because it gets backed up,” Kulp said. “It’s more of a mess now than it was before they changed it.”
City leaders are now considering 10 different options on how the corridor should look. Some include three lanes with bike lanes, four lanes with sidewalks, 12 or five-foot sidewalks, or bus lanes.
Leaders said the biggest concern they’re hearing since the change in 2020 is the impact to travel time.
A study showed the average travel time during afternoon rush hour increased since the lane reduction, but they’re seeing fewer head-on, left-turn, and sideswipe crashes.
“What we’re trying to do is look at ways to move people safely and not necessarily cars as much, as fast as possible,” Planning & Transportation Manager Charles Barmby said.
Right now, city staff and the department of transportation are going through thousands of comments from the public.
“Even if the commission decides to stick with the three-lane section, there are clearly improvements we have to make at the north and the south ends of the corridor,” Barmby said.
Kulp said they’re ready for a change, something that’ll benefit businesses, drivers, and pedestrians.
“We’re pretty much just tired of it,” Kulp said.
The city commission will decide later this year whether to keep three lanes or pursue another option.