In a time where several transit agencies across the country are cutting service, residents of east Polk County can celebrate expanded service, thanks to the support of county and municipal governments.

In the largest east county expansion since Winter Haven Area Transit hit the streets in March 1999, Citrus Connection will be adding two routes to provide much-needed service to the residents of eastern Polk County in the Loughman area and from Lake Wales to Haines City.

Effective Oct. 1, an express bus service will roll up and down U.S. 27 between Lake Wales and Haines City expanding employment options, educational opportunities and transportation independence for a critical part of the Ridge that will provide comprehensive service along U.S. 27 and beyond.

The forward-thinking of the mayors of the municipalities of the Ridge, along with the Polk County Commission, made this expansion a reality. That proactive approach and anticipated funding will provide transit access from Haines City to Poinciana, Orlando, Winter Haven and all the routes Citrus Connection operates in Polk County.

In addition to the express service between Lake Wales and Haines City, the Loughman Flex Route that will start at Posner Park, north on U.S. 27, east on Ronald Reagan Parkway and circle around Old Lake Wilson Road onto Wilson Road and back to Ronald Reagan Parkway.

With the addition of these routes, riders in eastern Polk County will have endless transit possibilities meeting mobility needs.

Tom Phillips, executive director, Citrus Connection, Lakeland