For Lakeland residents planning to attend next week’s public forum on the future of South Florida Avenue in Dixieland, a look at some proposed options might be helpful. Ten alternative lane alignments are outlined in a preliminary report from a consultant hired by the city of Lakeland to create a master plan for the corridor.
The Florida Department of Transportation and city of Lakeland have completed collecting data from the “road diet test” that has reduced South Florida Avenue from five lanes to three between Ariana and Lime Streets since April 2020. The formerly less-than-9-foot traffic lanes were widened to standard 11-foot lanes and temporary concrete barriers were erected to emulate future sidewalk placement.
City and state officials are now taking feedback from the public on the lane reduction in two ways:
- An online survey available until next Monday.
- A public forum scheduled for Monday, July 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. in Sikes Hall at the RP Funding Center, 701 W. Lime St.
A report showing potential future alignments for the one-mile stretch of South Florida Avenue was prepared by Ayres Associates Inc., which was hired by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency in February to create a master pan for the corridor.
City officials say that the report, available here or at the end of this article, is considered preliminary. They also said other alignments for South Florida Avenue and its sidewalks will be considered, including proposals presented by members of the public at next Monday’s forum.
The report outlines 10 options. They include:
- Five that incorporate a median in the center of South Florida Avenue with dual left-turn lanes.
- Four that have with no median.
- Two that include four travel lanes. Neither have medians, and the sidewalks would be six feet wide, among the narrowest proposed.
- No options to return to five lanes. City and state officials have said five lanes are not possible under current state road standards.
- Sidewalks ranging from five feet wide to 12 feet wide.
- At least five that include bus bays.
In addition, the report lists an Option 10 to turn South Florida Avenue into a one-way, southbound roadway through Dixieland with northbound traffic diverted to New York Avenue. However, the report lists several reasons that option is “not ideal.”
Here is a look at the nine remaining options, including illustrations created by Ayres.
Note: Two of the options show potential parking lanes, but a city official told LkldNow that parallel parking “is not on the table.”
Options with medians
Two travel lanes, two five-foot bike lanes and 6.5-foot sidewalks.
Two travel lanes and 12-foot sidewalks that would be shared by pedestrians and bicycles.
Two travel lanes shared by vehicles and bicycles and 12-foot sidewalks.
Two travel lanes, two side-by-side bike lanes and 6.5-foot sidewalks
Two travel lanes with 8-foot bus bays and 6-foot sidewalks
Options with no medians
Two travel lanes with bus bays, 7-foot buffered bike lanes and 5-foot sidewalks
Two travel lanes with bus bays and 10-foot sidewalks
Four travel lanes with 6-foot sidewalks
Four travel lanes with 6-foot sidewalks. The outside travel lanes would be marked as shared with bicycles.
The Ayres report lists seven previous studies involving the Dixieland area, including two specifically involving the lane reduction. It summarizes the key “themes and aspirations expressed” in the previous studies this way:
- Slow traffic and improve safety
- Improve alley access
Quality Urban Environment
- Wider sidewalks for better pedestrian environment
- Plant shade trees on the street
- Include bikes along the corridor
- Include decorative streetlights and furnishings
- Improve transit infrastructure
- Improve parking
- Promote mixed use redevelopment
- Include public spaces
During the road diet test, transportation planners took steps to prevent traffic impediments, including widening lanes, moving bus stops to side streets and lengthening green lights on South Florida Avenue.
They monitored travel speed and times using and compared pre-COVID readings with times during February to April 2022, a time the city refers to as the post-COVID “new normal.”
Among the findings, according to the city of Lakeland:
- Average speeds decreased from 33 mph to 30, which is the speed limit.
- Average southbound travel time during the afternoon rush hour increased 72 seconds.
- Average northbound travel time during afternoon rush hour increased 14 seconds.
For drivers who hit every traffic light during their southbound afternoon commute (those at the 95th percentile and above), the drive was two minutes and 25 seconds slower than before the road diet on average, according to city figures. For northbound drivers who hit the worst traffic during the afternoon rush, their average drive was 15 seconds faster than before the test.
For morning rush-hour commutes, times were virtually unchanged with northbound drivers losing one second on average and southbound drivers gaining four seconds on average, according to the city Traffic Management Center.
Crash data compares with “before” months of October 2019 to February 2020 with the “after” months of October 2021 to February 2022.
The total crashes increased from 29 to 35, but city officials say the more severe kinds of crashes — including left-turn accidents and sideswipes — nearly disappeared. The biggest increase was in rear-end collisions, a finding Ayres says “were likely due to the drivers not being acclimated to the new roadway configuration, as these crashes declined after the first month.”
No serious injuries were reported during either period, the Florida Department of Transportation reported.
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