Transportation Document Will Help Guide Lakeland Growth

Lakeland mapA document that some say will help determine which parts of Lakeland and Polk County will grow for decades to come is up for adoption Thursday. Here’s a look at the plan and what it means for Lakeland.

What: Momentum 2040, Polk County’s long-range transportation plan guiding roads, pedestrian improvements and mass transit.

Why it’s important: Transportation and growth are intertwined. “Where you spend infrastructure is where growth will follow. You either lead it or you follow it,” Jim Studiale, the city’s chief planner, said at a City Commission workshop on the plan.

When: The document will be discussed and presumably passed, maybe with modifications, Thursday at a meeting of the Transportation Planning Organization at 9 a.m.

Where: Commission Board Room of the Neil Combee Administration Building, 330 W. Church St., Bartow

Parking for the meeting: It’s complicated because of construction. Info

Who: The TPO board is made up of elected representatives of Polk County and its municipalities. The 19-member board includes six Lakeland city commissioners. 

Why: Under state and federal law, the TPO is responsible for a plan looking at planning needs for the next 25 years. The plan is to be updated every five years. (Check the 2035 plan.)

Does the plan have anything to do with which projects will be funded?

The simplistic answer is: Yes. The plan assumes federal and state funds will increase and local funds will decrease. Projects are grouped into six tiers, with the three highest tiers reserved for projects already funded or expected to get funding.

That said, fundings of roads, trails and mass transit is a complicated melange of appropriations from public agencies. The plan provides a framework for spending, but future budgets are subject to a lot of factors, including the state of the economy, who gets elected, the result of referenda, etc.

Where can I see the plan?

The draft plan and a bunch of supporting documents are available online. In addition, here’s a PDF of the latest draft, and some of the documents are embedded farther down in this article. 

Is there a more compact document that focuses on Lakeland?

Yes. Here’s a summary that was presented to the City Commission at a workshop on Nov. 13. If you have an hour to spare, you can watch the workshop.

Was there a chance to comment on this before?

The TPO held several public information sessions around the county and used social media to get people to enter their transportation wishes on an interactive map.

Does the plan reflect other planning efforts such as the city’s comprehensive plan?

Yes, according to city transportation planner Chuck Barmby, who says it accommodates growth foreseen in areas such as Southwest Lakeland, the Florida Poly area and the “midtown” corridor between downtown and the medical complexes to the north.

What’s the biggest project in the plan?

Around $2.5 billion is planned to add managed lanes, also called express lanes, to Interstate 4. The intent of these toll lanes is to take pressure off the existing lanes, which will remain free to use. Similar lanes are planned from the Tampa area to the Polk Parkway and from the Orlando area to U.S. 27.

Map of Major Lakeland Road Projects


What are the top road improvements already funded in the Lakeland area?

  • Exend Wabash Avenue north from 10th Street to Interstate Drive.
  • Extend Crevasse Street to create a a new corridor between U.S. 98 and Socrum Loop Road just north of I-4.
  • Widen Bartow Highway between County Roads 540 and 540A.

 Which Lakeland road improvements are expected to be funded from 2019 to 2030?

  • Widen New Tampa Highway between Wabash Avenue and County Line Road.
  • Widen State Road 33 between Old Combee Road and north of Tomkow Road.
  • Widen Wabash Avenue between U.S. 92 and 10th Street.
  • Extend Wabash Avenue from Ariana Street to Harden Boulevard south of the Polk Parkway.

 Which Lakeland road improvements are expected to be funded from 2031 to 2040?

  • Widen I-4 to add managed lanes.
  • Widen Pipkin Road W. between Medulla Road and Harden Boulevard.

Which road improvements are “illustrative projects” at the top of the wish list if funds become available?

  • Widen Bartow Road between Lake Parker Avenue and Edgewood Drive.
  • Widen U.S. 98 between Daughtery Road and State Road 471.

Which road projects are listed as unfunded needs?

  • Widen U.S. 92 between Gary Road and Recker Highway in Auburndale.
  • Widen U.S. 98/Florida Avenue between Memorial Boulevard and Griffin Road.
  • Widen Airport Road between Drane Field Road and New Tampa Highway.
  • Widen Old Tampa Highway between Airport Road and Clark Road.
  • Widen Galloway Road between New Tampa Highway and Kathleen Road.
  • Extend Lakeland Highlands Road from Crews Lake Drive to State Road 60.
  • Extend County Line Road from Swindell Road to Knights Station Road.

Which intersections are slated for major upgrades?

  • Florida Avenue and Edgewood Drive
  • U.S. 98 and Griffin Road
  • Bartow Highway and Commerce Point Drive
  • Bartow Highway and South Edgewood Drive
  • Drane Field Road and Waring Road
  • West Pipkin Road and Yates Road

What intersections are at the top of the wish list?

  • I-4 at State Road 33 near Florida Poly.
  • Combee Road and Old Combee Road.

Which intersections are listed as unfunded needs?

  • I-4 and County Line Road.
  • I-4 and the west terminus of the Polk Parkway.
  • County Line Road and New Tampa Highway.
  • The Polk Parkway and a planned road about a mile south of I-4.

Which roads are scheduled for major pedestrian and bicycle upgrades?

The plan includes a “complete streets” program that aims to improve walkability through improved sidewalks, lighting, crosswalks, bike lanes and transit stops. These upgrades are planned for Massachusetts Avenue/Lakeland Hills Boulevard, Wabash Avenue, Highland Street/Greenwood Street and Combee Road.

What else is covered in the plan?

Mass transit, trails, congestion management. Details