Polk County Parkway
Maintained by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, the 25-mile long Polk Parkway encircles Lakeland to the south of Interstate 4 in Polk County. The loop road provides a high speed route to Auburndale and Winter Haven to the east while providing access between I-4 and the south Lakeland suburbs along SR 37 and U.S. 98.
Conceived first in 1950s highway plans, the Polk Parkway gained traction in 1986 as the Imperial Parkway. A Senate Bill passed by the Florida Legislature in 1990 allowed Florida's Turnpike to construct non-contiguous road projects. Several projects were submitted for consideration under this new program, with Polk Parkway being one of those chosen. Groundbreaking on the toll road followed on January 25, 1996.
Construction focused on the westernmost portion of Polk Parkway, with a 7.6-mile stretch completed east from I-4 on August 9, 1998. Another ten miles extended SR 570 eastward on August 2, 1999, leading to the final 7.5 miles northward back to I-4 on December 12, 1999.1 The Dixie Highway interchange (CR 546) opened by February 4, 2000.2
Currently, the eastern north-south section between State Road 546 and Interstate 4 is a Super Two (two-lane, undivided highway with interchanges), but it is likely to be upgraded as traffic counts warrant. The two-lane portion between mileposts 22 and 24 was expanded to four lanes when the new interchange at Pace Road (Exit 23) was constructed as part of $40-million in road work conducted between early 2010 and November 10, 2011.3
A future proposal involves the $1.2-billion Central Polk Parkway. This toll road is projected to angle southeast from SR 570 by SR 540 to encircle the south side of Winter Haven through to U.S. 27 near SR 540. The limited access road would then head northward, staying east of the U.S. 27 corridor by Haines City and Davenport to end at Interstate 4 midway between Exits 55 (U.S. 27) and 58 (CR 532). Project planning commenced in 2008, and funding efforts are underway, with the roadway included in Polk County's 2035 transportation plan.4
|The next exit along eastbound is Exit 9, Polk County 37B, Lakeland Highlands Road. The yellow placard reads next right because a toll is collected prior to the exit ramp. This ensures that all exiting traffic uses the right lane for paying the toll. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The first eastbound toll plaza is situated between Florida 37 and Polk County 37. At the time this photo was taken, the toll was under $1. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Like most other toll roads in the state of Florida, SunPass is accepted as a form of electronic toll collection in the left lane. The other lanes are for cash customers, and the right lane provides best access to Exit 9, Polk County 37B. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The Polk Parkway toll plazas are rather unimpressive when compared to the ones found on some of the toll roads in the Miami area (i.e., there are no cable stay bridge columns or supports on top of this plaza the way they are found on Florida 836/Dolphin Expressway), but they get the job done. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Polk County 37B is Lakeland Highlands Road, which travels north to Lakeland and south to Scott Lake Road/Christina Road (Polk County 540A). Polk County 37B appears to be well signed from the freeway, but despite its numbering, it does not directly connect to Florida 37. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Eastbound Toll Florida 570/Polk Parkway reaches Exit 9, Polk County 37B, Lakeland Highlands Road. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The next exit along eastbound is Exit 10, U.S. 98/Florida 35/Florida 700, Bartow Road. U.S. 98 is a major route through the peninsula, connecting West Palm Beach and Lake Okeechobee to the southeast with the Florida panhandle to the northwest. U.S. 98 is signed north-south through this stretch, at least as far northwest as Perry. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Toll Florida 570 eastbound approaches Exit 10, U.S. 98. The right lane becomes exit only for U.S. 98. Use U.S. 98 north to reach the eastern areas of Lakeland, while U.S. 98 south travels to Bartow, Fort Meade, and Avon Park. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Eastbound Toll Florida 570 reaches Exit 10, U.S. 98. The hidden routes for U.S. 98 here are Florida 35 and Florida 700. Florida 35 (179.11 miles) starts in Punta Gorda and follows U.S. 17 north to Bartow. At Bartow it merges with U.S. 98 until Dade City. At Dade City, Florida 35 follows U.S. 301 north to U.S. 441 in Belleview. After Belleview, Florida 35 emerges as a signed route in a north/south direction to its northern terminus at Florida 40 at Silver Springs. Florida 700 begins in Citrus County and follows U.S. 98 from there southeast to West Palm Beach. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Three miles later, this sign advises that the next exit is Exit 14, Florida 540, Winter Lake Road, one mile. A second toll booth is found immediately prior to the ramp to Exit 14, so all traffic must again pay a toll. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Florida 540 is a recently upgraded route that connects Florida 570 to Winter Haven. An east-west route, this section of Florida 540 connects Lakeland with Eagle Lake. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Through traffic is advised to use the left lanes, while exiting traffic to Florida 540 should use the right lane as the toll plaza approaches on eastbound Florida 570. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Palm trees adorn the median strip along eastbound Florida 570 at the toll plaza. Note the odd signage pointing traffic to use the right lanes (and right booths) to make the exit to Florida 540. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|After the Florida 540 interchange, Florida 570 turns from eastbound to northbound in order to reconnect with U.S. 92 and Interstate 4. The next exit along northbound is Exit 17, U.S. 92, one mile. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|U.S. 92 travels west into Lakeland and east to Auburndale and Lake Alfred, where it meets U.S. 17 and becomes U.S. 17-92 northeast toward Osceola County and Orlando. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Northbound Florida 570 reaches Exit 17, U.S. 92/Memorial Boulevard. This interchange is a folded diamond, which is why the overhead sign shows east U.S. 92 in the left lane and west U.S. 92 in the right lane (which is counterintuitive considering we are traveling north). Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The next exit along northbound is Exit 18, Polk County 546, Old Dixie Highway. The Dixie Highway was a major named trail that predates the numbered U.S. highway system in Florida. Through Florida, the Dixie Highway had two routes: the coastal route that roughly paralleled U.S. 1 from Key West to Jacksonville and an interior Florida route that generally followed U.S. 41 from Miami to Punta Gorda; U.S. 17 from Punta Gorda to Kissimmee, U.S. 441 from Kissimmee to High Springs, U.S. 27 from High Springs to Tallahassee, and U.S. 319 from Tallahassee north to the Georgia State Line. This section of Old Dixie Highway is part of the old interior route. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The four-lane section of Toll Florida 570 comes to an end at Exit 18. The right lane exits only onto Polk County 546/Old Dixie Highway, while the left lane continues north on Florida 570 en route to Interstate 4. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Only one carriageway has been constructed for Toll Florida 570 between Exits 18 and 24. The freeway has no center divider, but plenty of right of way has been reserved for the future construction of the other carriageway. Currently, all traffic uses the northbound carriageway, while the southbound carriageway is unconstructed. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|A grade separation demonstrates the future location of the southbound Toll Florida 570 lanes. The third and final toll plaza is just ahead. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|The final interchange along northbound Florida 570 is Exit 24, Junction Interstate 4 east to Orlando and west to Tampa. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|As the toll road approaches Interstate 4, the highway again widens out to four lanes. The right lane exits only to eastbound Interstate 4, while the left lane exits only onto westbound Interstate 4. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Toll Florida 570 reaches its eastern terminus here at Exit 24. Interstate 4 continues northeast toward Orlando and west toward Tampa. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Florida 570 scenes|
|Dixie Highway has a full interchange with the Polk Parkway (Florida 570). Photo taken 12/04/03.|
|Eastbound Dixie Highway reaches Toll Florida 570/Polk Parkway. Photo taken 12/04/03.|
- Florida's Turnpike - System Description, accessed July 8, 2014.
- "Last Interchange of Parkway to Open." The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), February 4, 2000.
- "Polk Parkway's Pace Road Interchange To Open Thursday." The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), November 8, 2011.
- "Central Polk Parkway Faces Hurdles Before It Becomes a Reality." The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), February 1, 2014.
Page Updated July 8, 2014.