Lakeland Contemplates Where High-Speed Rail Should Stop

When community and business leaders discuss what the proposed high-speed rail system will mean for the communities along the Interstate 4 corridor, Polk County is eager to participate. The railway system will stop somewhere in Lakeland.

The question is, where?

According to Nazih Haddad, COO of Florida Rail, the location decision is based upon a number of factors.

"Ridership is a factor," explains Haddad. "We want the biggest bang for the buck. We are doing some analysis on ridership as we speak. The Polk Transportation Planning Organization's  number one choice is USF Polytechnic, and their second choice is Kathleen Boulevard. But who we contract for the project will also affect our decision about where we place Lakeland's stop."

"No matter where it goes, it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for Polk County," says Jennifer Stults, TPO director. "You sort of target your growth in a concentrated area of mixed-use space. In those mixed-use spaces you can have living areas, commercial and retail all in one compact location. A lot of variety would make that station a producer and an attractor. With mixed-use you can attract people from other places as well as have people leaving their homes to go to work."

Wherever the stop ultimately goes, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields is ecstatic about the possibilities the high-speed rail system will have on his community. "The impact to Lakeland across the economic, commercial, cultural and transportation fronts will be enormous. We have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg in our comprehension and understanding about what this can do for our community and the entire region."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Nazih Haddad, Florida Rail Office; Jennifer Stults, Polk Transportation Planning Organization; Gow Fields, City of Lakeland


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