Areas of Focus


Area of Focus:

Growth management and infrastructure that protects the environment, enhances the quality of life, supports education and economic development, and is economically sustainable.

Polk Vision Infrastructure Initiatives:

Smart Communities


All of Polk County will have the fastest, most affordable and most accessible high-speed internet services possible by 2030.

Sustainable economic development, growth, opportunity and innovation are dependent on affordable high-speed internet access. Having a shared vision among all of the Polk County communities helps to ensure the alignment of broadband infrastructure necessary to meet the growing demand.

The Smart Communities Team held a Broadband Summit in April 2023 to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities for Broadband in Polk. Among the panelists were industry leaders, policy makers, and government agencies.

The Smart Communities LEAD Team continues its work in educating and building community consensus around the vital importance of a robust broadband network to support Polk County’s economic growth and prosperity.

Affordable, accessible high-speed internet facilitates many critical activities:

  • Enables small businesses to compete in a global marketplace
  • Means safer streets and communities
  • Supports research and training at colleges and universities
  • Greater opportunities for our students
  • Better, faster, more effective healthcare

Did you know?

Polk County ranks in the bottom 25 in the nation for high-speed internet use (358th of 381)

(Source: American Community Survey, 2013)

Bottom 10 in the nation for STEM jobs (91st of 100)

(Source: WalletHub, 2014)

Bottom 10 in the nation for households with broadband subscriptions (94th of 100)

(Source: Brookings, 2014)

The Smart Communities Team aided by the Government Advisory Team drafted a formal Resolution supporting broadband expansion that has been adopted by:

  • City of Auburndale
  • City of Bartow
  • City of Davenport
  • City of Fort Meade
  • City of Haines City
  • City of Lake Alfred
  • City of Lake Wales
  • City of Lakeland
  • City of Polk City
  • City of Winter Haven
  • Polk County BoCC
  • Town of Dundee

The Smart Communities Team seeks to identify ways to leverage technology and broadband infrastructure to solve problems that exist in our county. In order to attract STEM jobs, we must have the infrastructure in place to accommodate the needs of these businesses. As the Polk County Public School District continues to increase bandwidth to its individual schools, our students will have greater learning opportunities and better testing environments. With the expansion of the municipal fiber network we are laying the groundwork to support future technologies such as 5G networks and better data collection, resulting in improved delivery of services, and improved public safety. Polk County could leverage Smart technology to improve traffic flows, and better use of power, water, and other consumable resources. There is virtually no limit to the ways that technology can be used to solve the problems our county faces. We must be forward-thinking when addressing our problems in order to achieve the progress we so desire.

Chad Tagtow, CIO & Senior Vice President, Citizens Bank & Trust

Infrastructure: Focus on Sidewalks


Before 2030, Polk County will have growth management and infrastructure that protect the environment, enhance the quality of life, promote education and economic development, and are economically sustainable.

Polk Vision and the Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) have a shared goal of reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Sidewalks are an important component of aligning resources to establish pedestrian connections between developed areas, schools, and parks and provide a healthy and safe environment.

On a typical school day, thousands of school children throughout the county are walking along portions of major roads in order to get to and from school or a bus stop and many of these roads lack sidewalks. Polk Vision’s Infrastructure: Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Team in partnership with the Polk TPO has evaluated the sidewalk needs surrounding 140 Public Schools in Polk County and identified 179 miles (28%) of major roads within one mile of a school that do not have sidewalks.

As part of this evaluation, the top 74 schools with the least amount of sidewalks were evaluated and a list of sidewalk needs for these schools has been developed.

The Infrastructure: Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Team is sharing this list of candidate projects with municipal and county leaders and is seeking formal resolutions of support for closing these sidewalk gaps. A number of sidewalk projects included in the school sidewalk evaluation have been approved and funded by Polk County and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and are scheduled for construction within the next few years. The Infrastructure: Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Team will continue to coordinate with Polk County and various local governments, as well as the Polk TPO and FDOT in order to obtain funding for additional sidewalk needs identified within one mile of a public school.

There are many infrastructure issues we could probably be discussing as part of this Team, but right now our top priority and focus is addressing safe access to schools.

Ryan Kordek, Transportation Planning Administrator, Polk TPO

Candidate Sidewalk Projects

  • Phase I (2017) – 10 Public Schools. 59 Candidate Sidewalk Projects (23 miles) with an estimated cost of $8.7 Million
  • Phase II (2018) – 20 Public Schools. 84 Candidate Sidewalk Projects (35 miles) with an estimated cost of $13.1 Million
  • Phase III (2019) – 63 Corridors. 63 Candidate Sidewalk Projects (46 miles) and 137 street light improvements. The estimated cost has not been determined at this time.

Did you know?

In 2021, the Lakeland – Winter Haven area was listed as the 21st most dangerous metro area in the U.S. to be a pedestrian.

In 2022, there were 29 Bicycle (4) and Pedestrian (25) fatalities in Polk County.

In the last five years, the Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) has allocated over $20M in sidewalk, complete street, and multi-use trail projects throughout Polk County.

The county was awarded $720,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the new Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant program. The funds will be used to redesign roads, widen sidewalks, and add more crosswalks.

Visit the Polk County Sidewalk Advisory Committee.

Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety


Polk County will have a Quality of Life that encourages diverse backgrounds to live in harmony while developing physically, spiritually, mentally, and culturally, within a healthy and safe environment.

Drivers in Polk County hit and kill pedestrians and bicyclists more frequently than drivers in larger and more densely populated counties in Florida. The Infrastructure: Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety TeamSafety Team’s goal is to decrease the number of pedestrians and bicyclists injured and killed in crashes. Recognizing changing the culture takes time and commitment, the 35-member Team is comprised of individuals from a wide variety of local governmental agencies, hospitals, K-12, higher education, and private businesses. The Team has devised a multi-pronged approach to making Polk County a safer place for pedestrians and bicyclists based on Education, Enforcement and Engineering. In 2019 the Team’s tactical plan was finalized and includes: safety messaging, engineering (including conducting road audits), public outreach, and in-school education.

View the data sheet

The work of the Infrastructure: Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Team has resulted in a deeper collaboration between the Polk County TPO and Polk County Public Schools to increase educational efforts on the issue of pedestrian and bicycle safety. In addition, the Team has aligned efforts to prioritize sidewalk coverage around Polk County Public Schools. This year, the team shared a collection of resources and lessons designed for physical education teachers to access easily to teach our elementary and middle school students about pedestrian and bicycle safety. This collection was the result of a two-year project from the Safe Routes to School Grant awarded to the Polk County TPO. Team members and TPO Staff worked with the consultant AE Com to develop an accessible resource site for our schools and community. During the development, feedback was given from district teachers and administrators. In our initial talks with district leaders, we realized much more focus needed to be given to the issue than Kindergarten through 8th-grade class lessons.

The school district and Superintendent Heid have committed to raising awareness of creating safer environments for our students to travel to and from school and reduce the tragic statistics surrounding it. In conjunction with the Polk County Public Schools public relations department, the campaign “Extra Care Getting There” has been deployed. The campaign will include social media posts, posters, messaging, and signs, within the school community and all Polk County communities. This is a huge win for our community and helps us move one step closer to being a safer community for the residents of Polk County. We hope you all will join us in helping spread the word “Take Extra Care in Getting There.”

In Polk County, a pedestrian or bicyclist dies every two weeks in a traffic crash. These persons are more than a statistic – everyone has a name and loved ones who will miss them dearly. Every traffic fatality is a tragedy. The Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Team is working with community partners towards a future with zero traffic-related fatalities. Anything less is a continuing tragedy. Success will rely on a “3-E” approach: Engineering (safer streets), Education (better safety habits) and Enforcement (everyone following the rules of the road).

Tom Deardorff, Executive Director, Polk TPO

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