Partnership to build new transportation technology testing facility in Florida

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The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has formed a long-term partnership with Florida Polytechnic University (FPU) to construct SunTrax, a new, state-of-the-art transportation technology testing facility.

The two parties hope that the creation of this new facility will establish Florida as a transportation technology leader and create a high-tech hub for the research, development and testing of emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and connected and automated vehicles (CAVs). SunTrax includes a 2.25-mile (3.6km) oval track on a 400-acre site in Polk County, centrally located between Tampa and Orlando. The facility will be placed just within the city of Auburndale and adjacent to the Polk Parkway, just north of Braddock Road.

The initial phase of the project will focus on the construction of an innovative toll testing facility expected to offer local, and potentially national and international, certification for tolling technologies. The construction of the oval track will be designed to support high speed testing of toll technologies, with multiple lanes and parallel tolled express lanes similar to those being constructed on many current highway widening projects throughout the state. This phase of construction will also include structures and other facilities to support toll systems testing and development, including the hardware and software used on tolled facilities.

The facility will allow Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) and the state of Florida to continue leading the way in the development of new transportation technologies. FTE has over 5.5 million SunPass customers who use their toll facilities daily, and FTE processes over 1.3 billion toll transactions annually on a statewide basis for FDOT and for multiple regional and local toll agencies. The new test facility will be within 45 minutes of the Turnpike headquarters in Ocoee, centralizing testing operations and significantly reducing the current travel times to other testing locations.

The approximately 200-acre infield area of the track will be developed next, and is expected to become a hub for automated and connected vehicle testing. The infield will be developed in partnership with Florida Poly, allowing the university to offer its students unique opportunities to participate in the research, development and testing of these cutting edge technologies.

A few of the features that would likely be included are: a learning laboratory, a simulated city center, suburban and rural roadways, interconnected signalized intersections, interchange ramps, roundabouts, various types of pavement, and many others. The included features would be equipped to perform research, development and testing for data and security, vehicle safety and equipment certification. This facility will provide a safe environment for testing these emerging technologies before they are deployed in live traffic.

Florida’s Transportation Secretary, Jim Boxold, said, “SunTrax at Florida Polytechnic places the future of tolling and technology testing squarely in the Sunshine State. This facility creates a partnership between the public and private sectors to tackle new technology challenges facing the industry for our road users.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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