Lakeland’s South Florida Ave may soon undergo major changes

South Florida Avenue in Lakeland.

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – At any given time, it’s easy to see South Florida Avenue is jammed packed with drivers. A section of this busy road could soon be getting a major overhaul.

Through the Dixieland area, the lanes are narrow, as are the sidewalks for pedestrians. Business owners and residents say there have been plenty of close-calls when vehicles run up on the curb.

“I think that safety is our number one concern. If you’ve ever walked down on South Florida on the sidewalks, they can be very scary what a big truck or something like that comes by,” Co-Owner of Concord Coffee, T.J. Zimmerman said.

According to FDOT, there have been nearly 200 crashes in the Dixieland area within the past four years.

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To improve safety, the City of Lakeland has partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One, and the Central Florida Regional Planning Council (CFRPC) and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC), to come up with ways to improve the South Florida Avenue corridor between Ariana Street and Pine Street in Lakeland.

A proposal is on the table to reduce the number of lanes from five, to three. This would makes the lanes and sidewalks wider.

Zimmerman supports the plan. “I would like my customers and my family to be safe coming to the different businesses here in Dixieland,” he said.

Not everyone is sold on the idea, some telling News Channel 8 this would bottleneck the road that is already a traffic nightmare.

“I’m not discounting those concerns, but I cannot imagine this working,” Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs said. “They haven’t told us how they’re going to factor in when trains are crossing the tracks. They haven’t explained anything that they’re going to do when a bus stops in the middle of the street. So to me, I’m not saying it’s a terrible idea, I’m saying it’s a half-baked idea.”

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