Polk County’s Massive $200M Thompson Nursery Road Expansion Inches Ahead

Polk County’s Massive $200M Thompson Nursery Road Expansion Inches Ahead

Efforts to untangle the traffic snarl in Polk County advanced this week, at least for the Thompson Nursery Road extension project. During the April 16 County Commission meeting, the board unanimously approved a contract for a $3.276 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, contributing to the cost of constructing this road.

These funds would likely be allocated to one or more of the eventual five segments planned for the Thompson Nursery Road extension. The entire seven-mile project is expected to cost a staggering $200 million, according to Polk Roads and Drainage director Jay Jarvis. The complete length could be ready to accommodate traffic by 2031.

While one segment is nearing completion, other segments still lack a finalized route on county maps, indicating where the new roadway will traverse. During the April 12 agenda review, a familiar set of preliminary drawings was presented to the commissioners, with Jarvis elucidating its status.

FDOT grant approved Tuesday for $3.276 million toward the Thompson Road extension.

Currently, the Thompson Nursery Road extension project is in its initial four phases, which would create a four-lane 45 mph road from State Road 540 at U.S. 17 to West Lake Ruby Drive. The multi-year project is divided into five phases in total.

The first segment will run from U.S. 17 at the SR 540 and head east to Eagle Lake to Rifle Range Road, which is the part slated for initial construction by Polk County. Jarvis stated that the intent is to build this section first to divert truck traffic emanating from the logistics center, which currently traverses roads like Snively Avenue in Eloise, to access the Polk Parkway.

The second segment is still undergoing alignment studies. It will run from County Road 655 (Rifle Range Road) to east of the CSX right of way. The current county map shows it could run either north or south of Lake Gwyn, as the final alignment has not yet been determined. One potential route would place the new road along a short portion of Eagle Lake Loop Road to the west.

Segment two would also include a bridge over the CSX railroad tracks before connecting to segment three. The bridge design has already been completed in drawings paid for by the county in the early 2010s.

Segment three dubbed the “developer segment” on the map, could connect segment two with Eloise Loop Road just north of Lake Reed. Work is already underway in phase three adjacent to the VillaMar development by Cassidy. This phase includes both a county portion and a city portion.

Segment four would improve the current stretch of Eloise Loop Road between Lake Reed and West Lake Ruby Road.

Segment five would ultimately connect the entire stretch to U.S. 27.

In June 2022, Kimley Horn was hired as a consultant to perform design updates and alignment studies for the Thompson Nursery Road extension for $5 million. The board will need to approve the final alignment once it has been studied and finalized.

In a second map, Jarvis showed the commissioners what is considered an overall second phase (or segment five) between West Lake Ruby Road and U.S. 27. The number of new housing units coming to that area of Lake Wales is astronomical, with 6,100 dwelling units across 1,841 acres south of segment five. The gross residential density averages out to about 3.3 dwellings per acre.

There are also projections of multiple commercial, office, and nursing home facilities along that stretch of the road.

The Thompson Nursery Road extension is one of many major capital infrastructure projects undertaken to improve the quality of life around the county, according to the Polk County website. Road projects are just one portion of the funding set aside in the county’s ongoing Community Investment Program for addressing growth and economic investment.

The CIP project expenditures are projected to be approximately $447.2 million in fiscal year 2023-2024, and over the next five years, the county anticipates spending $1.5 billion to address the long list of projects, which include projects for accessible roadways and relief from increased traffic.