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Central Polk Parkway will improve connectivity and reduce congestion in Florida’s fastest-growing county

ABC Action News / WFTS

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A $257 million project will make room on the roadways for the thousands of people moving to Polk County.

When Earl Harriman first moved to Polk County, bumper-to-bumper traffic was not an issue, but now he said he avoids I-4 as much as he can.

"There's no good time of day to go. I travel it to go to Disney, my granddaughter and I we do that, but there's no good time to make it, where there's no backups from US-27 on down," said Harriman.

Harriman thinks expanding high-traffic roadways could help alleviate congestion.

"I've been here over 20 years and the traffic has increased considerably. The population has come up a lot, so yeah, it's gotten a lot worse," said Harriman.

Polk is Florida's fastest-growing county. The population in Winter Haven alone saw an increase of 9.35% since the 2020 census.

"We're having 50 to 60 people daily moving to Polk County and that is a lot," said Martha Santiago, Polk County Commissioner for District 4.

With a fast-growing population comes the need for transportation infrastructure.

Florida Department of Transportation and Florida's Turnpike Enterprise broke ground Thursday on Central Polk Parkway. A new, four-lane tolled roadway will begin at Polk Parkway/SR 570 and Winter Lake Road/SR 540 and extend approximately 6.5 miles to US 17/SR 35.

This will increase roadway capacity for drivers in Winter Haven, Bartow, Auburndale and Eagle Lake.

"This important new roadway will not only help today's communities and drivers but will set Polk County up for success in the future. By 2045 nearly 25,000 people are anticipated to use Central Polk Parkway as part of their daily commute," said John Kubler, FDOT District One Interim Secretary and Transportation Development Director.

Central Polk Parkway will improve connectivity and reduce congestion by providing a direct route from US 17/SR 35 to Winter Lake Road/SR 540, Polk Parkway, and I-4. It will also enhance driver safety.

"Incorporates the latest safety features, including the most up-to-date wrong-way driver detection technology at all interchange exists to monitor, detect and deter wrong-way drivers," said Nicola Liquori, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise Executive Director and CEO.

The construction is expected to continue through 2029.