Temporary Traffic Pattern Change Coming to Downtown Lake Wales Starting Monday
Last updated 9/6/2023 at 10:34am
A closure of a block of First Street will begin Monday morning, August 28, and is expected to last until November. At that time the street will reopen along with the completed western block of Park Avenue between First and Wetmore, which will then be open to two-way traffic for the first time in at least 60 years. Two way traffic will eventually be the rule on all of Park Avenue west of Scenic Highway.
During construction detours will reroute traffic north of Stuart Avenue to avoid the construction zone in front of the US post office. The privately-owned parking lot at the southeast corner of the intersection will be accessible only from Park Avenue, according to project planners, but sidewalks along First Street will be open to offer pedestrian access the post office.
The construction is part of the implementation of the Lake Wales Connected plan, intended to transform downtown streets into shady, pedestrian oases featuring sidewalk cafes and dining. Future phases will include portions of Central, Orange, and Crystal Avenues. A reconstruction of portions of Scenic Highway is also in the works, to include the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Crystal Avenue at the railroad crossing.
Plans generally reflect narrower traffic lanes, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and lush tree canopies to reflect the city's heritage as an Olmsted-landscaped "Garden City."
General contractor Gomez Construction is conducting the Park Avenue project, but other companies may be involved in concurrent projects on other streets and phases.
The Park Avenue plan includes pouring concrete during overnight hours so that new sidewalks will be ready for early-morning pedestrians. Gomez Project Manager Mahmoud Heda said that, despite unavoidable traffic detours, Park Avenue "sidewalks will never be shut down during business hours" so that access to area businesses will always be available.