Polk County said utility installation on West PIpkin Road ran into some delays which held up the drainage work, which set back the road construction. The eastbound lane will remain closed through January 2024. | File Photo

Polk County has some bad news for already-frustrated Lakeland residents who live along West Pipkin Road or drive that way regularly. A phase of the massive road widening project that was supposed to take 17 months is now looking more like 24 months.

The portion of West Pipkin Road between Harden Boulevard and South Florida Avenue closed to eastbound traffic in January 2022, purportedly for 17 months, for the addition of another lane as well as sidewalk, signal, lighting and utility improvements. On the original timetable, that segment would have reopened around June 2023.

However, Bill Skelton of the county’s Roads and Drainage division said Tuesday that the eastbound travel lane will remain blocked through the end of January 2024

“There were complicating factors with some utility installation that we’re doing for the city of Lakeland,” Skelton said. 

He said a contractor “ran into some delays” installing the upgraded water and sewer lines. That held up the drainage work, which then delayed the actual road construction.

Skelton wasn’t sure what the exact issues were in this situation, but he said there are often “unknowns that we discover once they start excavating.” And road projects have to be done sequentially. 

“You’ve got to get the utilities in first, then you build the road,” Skelton explained.

Eastbound traffic on West Pipkin Road heading to South Florida Avenue will still be detoured onto Old Highway 37 to Ewell Road, then to South Florida Avenue. 

While eastbound traffic can turn northbound onto Harden Boulevard, the eastbound travel lane remains blocked to traffic beyond Harden Boulevard.

Westbound traffic can still turn southbound onto South Lakeland Drive, Shady Lake Lane, and Dorman Road on the south side of West Pipkin Road between South Florida Avenue and Harden Boulevard.

In a news release, the county said, “Commuters should expect slower traffic and congestion, especially during peak-hour traffic. Motorists are advised to drive carefully, be alert to detour signs and to add extra time to trips through this area.”

The affected segment is just one part of a three-year, $55.6 million project to widen nearly four miles of the busy east-west thoroughfare between South Florida Avenue and Medulla Road by the airport. The full project is scheduled to end in November 2024.

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Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. She was a crime reporter, City Hall reporter and chief political writer for newspapers including the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining LkldNow. Reach her at cindy@lkldnow.com or 561-212-3429.

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