WHEN IS POLK COUNTY, located right in the heart of Central Florida and the home county for Tucker Paving, not considered to be in Central Florida? That would be when the Florida Department of Transportation is in charge of boundaries.

When we last visited the topic of the FDOT — or “F-DOT” — for a historical backgrounder blog published Jan. 4, we noted that the department is divided statewide into seven districts plus Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, which manages the state’s toll highway system. In past thinking by FDOT officials, Polk County wasn’t included in the Central Florida district (District 5) that includes Orange and Osceola and seven other counties. Instead, Polk was placed in District 1, which the FDOT calls its Southwest Florida district.

Polk is the northernmost county in District 1, which includes 12 counties overall. The district stretches way down south to coastal Collier County, familiar to most people as the home to Naples. Other counties in the FDOT’s District 1 are Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, and Sarasota.

With a land area of nearly 12,000 square miles, District 1 is one of the FDOT’s two largest districts by area. District 2/Northeast Florida, which includes Jacksonville, is the other large district, also with about 12,000 square miles.

Borrowed from the FDOT district Web page, here is what else the department has to say about District 1:

“Its 1.8 million residents contribute to the 21 million miles traveled daily on its state highways. District 1 provides capital grant funds to 21 public airports, including two international airports, both of which are designated “Strategic Intermodal System” (SIS) hubs. In addition, there are 121 registered private aviation facilities in the district.”

Also, according to the FDOT:

“The district has one deep-water seaport in operation (Port Manatee), also a SIS hub, which receives state grant funds from the seaports and intermodal programs. District 1 is served by five railroad companies (CSX, Evansville Western Railway, Florida Midland, South Central Florida Express, and Seminole Gulf Railway) and two excursion trains (Murder Mystery-Seminole Gulf and Florida Railroad, Parrish).”

Polk County has the prestige of being home to the FDOT District 1 main office, located at 801 N. Broadway Ave. in Bartow, the county seat. District 1 also has a Southwest Area Office, located on Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers.