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An extension of the Central Polk Parkway is planned between Lakeland and Bartow

Central Polk Parkway route
Florida Department of Transportation
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Central Polk Parkway route

The new toll road connector would allow travelers going from the Polk Parkway to State Road 60 to avoid heavily-traveled local roads.

Another extension of the Polk Parkway toll road is being planned, this time between Lakeland and Bartow. It is projected to move traffic more easily between Interstate 4 and State Road 60 to Florida's east coast.

This is the second planned extension of the Polk Parkway, which circles Lakeland to the south and east and allows access to Interstate 4.

The first extension is planned to go from Winter-Lake Road between Lakeland and Bartow and go south to U.S. Highway 17.

During a recent public video meeting, Florida Department of Transportation planners said it would allow traffic traveling across the state to avoid busy U.S. Highway 98 between Lakeland and Bartow.

"The proposed Central Polk Parkway will provide better options for moving people and goods to and through Polk County, reduce congestion on U.S. 98, State Road 60 and other existing area roadways, provide an additional access route to I-4 and State Road 60 for travelers and truck traffic in the region," they said.

It is projected to reduce travel times to Tampa and Orlando, improve freight movements and relieve congestion on State Road 60 and U.S. 98.

If approved, construction would begin in 2025 and take three to four years to complete. It's expected to cost more than $200 million, with tolls eventually paying the bill.

The Central Polk Parkway project was first proposed in 2008. It was billed as a long-range alternative to relieving traffic congestion on U.S. 27 and would have traveled into eastern Polk County to connect with I-4 in the Four Corners region. That part of the project has since been put on hold by transportation planners.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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