In 1977, the Lakeland Urbanized Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) was established, with staff support provided by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council. Since 1980, staff support for the MPO for the Lakeland/Winter Haven Urbanized Areas has been provided by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. In the 1990’s, the MPO Board adopted “Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO)” as its formal name.
The urban transportation planning process was initiated for Polk County in 1967 with establishment of the Lakeland Urban Area Transportation Study (LUATS). The study included the development of socioeconomic databases for the years 1967 and 1990, and the conduction of both home interviews and roadside origin-destination surveys for complete travel demand model calibration. The initial study, completed in 1970, resulted in a 1990 principal street and highway plan.
In 1974, the Polk County Transportation Study was organized to provide a coordinated transportation program for the entire county, including those areas previously served under LUATS. A county-wide database was developed for the base year 1973 and land use forecasts were prepared for the years 1980, 1985, 1990 and 2000. Travel data from the 1967 LUATS origin-destination survey were supplemented with a 1975 roadside interview of inter-city travelers. The final product of this study, completed in 1978, was an adopted transportation plan for the year 2000 with an interim 1990 plan for staging projects.
In 1983, work was initiated on a comprehensive travel demand model validation study using a 1980 database in conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation’s newly established Urban Transportation Planning System (UTPS) standard model structure. Following completion of the model validation study in 1984, a separate study was begun to develop a 2010 Cost-Feasible Plan for Polk County, with an interim staging plan for 1995. In 1987, a consultant was selected to complete this work, and in 1989, the 2010 Long-Range Transportation Plan was adopted. In 1992, a board membership reapportionment plan was approved by the Governor with the Cities of Auburndale, Bartow, Lake Wales, and Haines City authorized to have one voting member each. In 1995, the 2020 Long-Range Transportation Plan update was adopted, and on December 7, 2000, the 2025 Long-Range Transportation Plan update was adopted.
In 2003, the Polk Transportation Planning Organization conducted a Countywide Transit Study which provided evidence that increased coordination and cooperation among Polk transit providers was needed. The Polk Regional Transportation Organization (RTO) was created in 2004 to increase coordination of the existing transit services and lead the transition to a new countywide transit system. The TRTO Board member, along with the Transition Committee, worked on drafting the legislation presented to the Florida Legislators in 2007 to form the Polk Transit Authority. On July 27, 2007, Governor Crist signed Bill 777, officially forming the Polk Transit Authority. The Polk Transit Authority Board of Directors was seated and held its first meeting on February 27, 2008, in Haines City.
On December 8, 2005, the 2030 Transportation Improvement Plan (2030 TRIP), formerly known as the Long-Range Transportation Plan, was adopted.