The City of Lakeland is considering proposals to fix traffic problems on South Florida Avenue through a 1.5 mile stretch known as “Dixieland.” Dixieland is a strip of commercial properties along US98 that is just south and west of downtown Lakeland. The issue with Dixieland is that there are 5 lanes of travel on this stretch of road (4 through lanes plus one shared center turn lane). This results in smaller than usual lane widths and makes drivers uncomfortable. While debatable, it may also be a cause of car accidents (aside the from the busy nature of the roadway in a commercial district).
What The Business Owners Want
The business owners along Dixieland want to see three lanes (one in each direction plus a shared center turn lane) and perhaps some parallel parking. While this may have been the way that Dixieland once was before the 1980’s when the current traffic pattern was established, the volume of traffic through this area has greatly increased since then. They want to see a return to Dixieland’s hey-day where you could stop along South Florida Avenue to go in any business you want. Business owners claim that the current traffic pattern has hurt their businesses and forced them to use the alleyways as their front doors.
Lakeland Does Not Have A Good North-South Through Route
One of the things that the City of Lakeland has always been lacking is an efficient north-south route. Harden Boulevard is curvy and does not link with US98 in South Lakeland. Lakeland Hills Boulevard/Massachusetts Avenue dead ends into Lake Morton. This leaves South Florida Avenue/US98 the only viable north-south route through the city for people passing through. For purposes of traffic flow, any solution that reduces the north-south lanes from 4 to 2 will increase traffic congestion. It seems as if everyone will not be happy no matter what happens.
“Safety” Is Being Used As Leverage
For those who want change, safety is being cited as the concern and a major driver for change. This stretch of roadway is going to have a relatively high number of accidents no matter what just because of how busy it is (as a major north-south thoroughfare) and because of the different businesses that are located there. There is just no getting around that regardless of how many lanes are there. While the business owners may not like it, the solution that probably provides the greatest amount of “safety” is to eliminate the center turn lane so that the 4 travel lanes can be widened. Left hand turns would also have to be restricted to traffic lights and only on a protected turn signal (arrow). If the business owners are already using the alleyways as their entrances, then restricting left hand turns to major intersections with traffic lights will provide a greater degree of safety should not impact their businesses in a negative way. While some may dream of the day when businesses in Dixieland can re-open their doors on Florida Avenue, the reality is that there just isn’t enough land to do that.
The “Safest” Option May Not Be The Most Popular Option
Oftentimes, when people disagree on what should be done, the result is that nothing gets done because no one can agree on what the right thing to do is. With Dixieland, doing nothing is an option, however, as the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) makes a good point that this stretch of roadway is where a lot of car accidents are happening. Issues of traffic congestion aside, public safety should be the city’s primary concern.
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15 crashes since last week Thursday. Two crashes within 45 minutes on Tuesday.
So…..still…..safety isn’t an… https://t.co/LcfIpMDsDE
— Lakeland CRA (@LakelandCRA) February 23, 2017