This morning a crowd of engineers, educators, economic developers and legislators (as well as lot of media) gathered in the busy digital library of Florida Polytechnic's Innovation Science and Technology building to hear first hand of this innovative partnership that will bring opportunity to Polk County.
Located in Auburndale adjacent to the Florida Poly Campus, this "test track" will allow for the FDOT to test upgrades and innovation to their toll technology (who even knew they test that daily). This test track will allow the turnpike to test toll technology without closing lanes on our already busy toll roads.
While that is certainly exciting for FDOT and commuters alike, what makes this project really special is the phase 2 portion - the "infield" will be developed in partnership with Florida Poly as an automated and connected vehicle research and development facility. Can you say driverless car? Well Google, Uber, Tesla and many others are and this industry is sure to become the way of the future with billions being invested. With a facility of this caliber Auburndale, Florida could become a well known test site.
I can see it now, in 5-10 years will be live-streaming a chamber ribbon cutting from a GoPro video inside a driverless car a Florida Poly student developed.
Read more about this unique and long-term partnership below.
Official Press Release below:
Tallahassee – Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jim Boxold today announced a long-term partnership between FDOT and Florida Polytechnic University to construct the new, state-of-the-art transportation technology testing facility, SunTrax. The creation of this 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 automated and connected vehicles.
SunTrax includes a 2.25 mile oval track on a 400-acre site in Polk County, centrally located between Tampa and Orlando. The facility will be placed right outside the city of Auburndale and adjacent to the Polk Parkway, just north of Braddock Road.
Florida Secretary of Transportation 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.”
Florida Poly President Dr. Randy Avent said, “The SunTrax partnership is an exciting venture for Florida Polytechnic University and an unparalleled economic driver for the State of Florida. This joint facility for research, development and testing of advanced transportation concepts will greatly increase our opportunities for faculty research and industry partnerships. As a University founded in the practice of applied research, we look forward to these increased opportunities that SunTrax will bring to our faculty, students and the State of Florida as a whole.”
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 utilized 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 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.
SunTrax will be the first step in building the surrounding area into a destination for the development of this quickly emerging and advancing automotive technology. Hundreds of acres are available immediately adjacent to the facility for the future development that will support the growth of this emerging industry.
For FDOT media inquiries, contact Chad Huff, Turnpike Public Information Manager at 954-934-1289 firstname.lastname@example.org. For Florida Poly inquiries, contact Crystal Lauderdale, Director of Marketing and Communications at 863-874-8444 or email@example.com