The transportation sector is tasked with making the most of one of our most precious resources – land. Population growth, changing mobility needs, advancing technology, and funding shortfalls continuously intensify this challenge. This has led to an increased focus on project planning that offers the greatest return on investment, considering factors far beyond motor vehicles. Complete Streets policies support this strategic long-term planning.
In Lakeland, Florida, the Dixieland Corridor was once a five-lane roadway with a bi-directional turn lane in the middle and two narrow lanes in each direction, which were far too close to the sidewalks. The narrow lanes tested larger vehicles and were a safety hazard for all drivers. The lack of separation between vehicle lanes and pedestrian areas also posed a threat and deterred the community from utilizing the corridor to its fullest – to access offices and retail. Like most of our transportation network, the roadway was designed with a focus on vehicles and had become congested, unsafe, unwalkable, and not up to federal standards.
Implementing a Complete Streets Policy
FDOT District 1 determined that South Florida Avenue in Lakeland was an ideal candidate for a road diet, implementing many changes that reflect the Complete Streets policies that have grown in popularity over the last decade. The push for alternate modes of transportation to reduce congestion and improve connectivity for communities has led to the development of design and construction policies that move the focus beyond vehicles. According to the National Coalition for Complete Streets, there has been a more than 200 percent increase in jurisdictions across the country who have formally adopted Complete Streets policies over the last decade.
The Dixieland Corridor road diet is a first-of-its-kind Complete Streets policy in Florida. The Department will evaluate the success or failure of the project during the next year, collecting data to determine whether the concept is viable in other parts of the state. Aside from improving functionality of the corridor for vehicles and pedestrians, the hope is that the project will also support economic growth in the area, as it increases accessibility to businesses and connectivity throughout the community.
RS&H is currently providing construction engineering inspection services for the project, which includes modifying the roadway from two 10-foot lanes in each direction to one 11-foot lane in each direction. Aside from milling and resurfacing, curb separators are being placed between the travel lanes and sidewalks; signing and pavement markings are being improved for enhanced safety; and there is the potential for additional landscaping elements to increase the aesthetic appeal and create a downtown feel. The project that began in April is expected to be completed in the coming months – an accomplishment only possible due to construction management’s ability to collaborate and make decisions in the field.
Critical Decision Making
Due to the extensive concrete work up and down the project limits, RS&H and its partners have been operating during nighttime hours. Though this is business as usual for a roadway project, the team has had to make several field adjustments to the concrete separators. Due to the tight ingress and egress conditions of the existing businesses, field modifications had to be made to prevent entering and exiting vehicles from striking the separators.
This quick, accurate decision-making underscores the importance of having experienced, technically proficient staff representing the client in the field. Accurate adjustments could not have been possible without seamless communication and cooperation between the engineer-of-record, the project administrator, the entire CEI team, and the contractor.
Quality Project to Overcome Public Concerns
Though the team recognizes that the goal is to construct a street that is safe for all users while improving economic vitality for the area, the public does not necessarily share that sentiment. Like many projects of this nature, the South Florida Avenue Road Diet has been met with criticism from the public and media. Public acceptance is key to bringing a new project concept through to completion. Effective communication to the public, timely completion of construction to limit disruption to the public’s day-to-day lives and delivering a high-quality product with improved long-term maintenance will help overcome public concern.
Overcoming challenges on new concepts, policies and projects takes partnership from all involved from the owner, to the contractor, all the way to the construction manager and the public. Reach out to our experts and learn how RS&H can help your agency implement a new concept to improve connectivity, address congestion, and improve safety on your transportation system.
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