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Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)

SunTrax - Toll Technology Testing Center

Award Category: 
Technology
Award Year: 
2020

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)

Award Category: 
Technology
Award Year: 
2020

SunTrax is a state-of-the-art facility being developed by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) dedicated to the research, development, and testing of tolling and other emerging transportation technologies in safe and controlled environments. Situated on 475 acres centrally located between Tampa and Orlando in Polk County, Florida, SunTrax is composed of a 2.25-mile-long oval test track around a 200-acre infield. The multi-lane track replicates typical Florida highway conditions, with a design speed of 70 mph.

SunTrax is being developed in two phases. The first phase of construction was completed in May 2019, and it included all the infrastructure needed for FTE to perform independent testing of both current and future toll technologies. This completed phase features the multi-lane oval track offering opportunities to test multiple technologies simultaneously. Also housed here is a LEED-Certified operations center featuring exceptional training and testing facilities with fiber-optic track connections.

On the multi-lane reversible track, there are four toll sites that mirror FTE's existing field sites, which can also be adapted to test equipment from different vendors in a variety of scenarios.

SunTrax provides unprecedented access for simulations, relieving the need to close active lanes. Truck platooning, autonomous vehicles and toll transactions have been successfully conducted. Connected vehicles and infrastructure testing is vital to deliver holistic mobility solutions for all citizens by improving driver, cyclist, and pedestrian safety.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FTE, like many tolling entities, faced some challenging issues. On March 19, 2020, FTE removed cash toll collectors at plazas in order to ensure our staff and customers were as safe as possible during the initial outbreak of the pandemic. The decision was made to collect cash tolls via a "toll by plate" technology. At the same time, SunTrax played a key role in tolls testing of all-electronic tolling equipment by multiple vendors at the tolls test track. The tolls testing teams comprised of vendors, General Engineering Consultant (GEC) staff, and FDOT staff all practiced the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on social distancing, hand washing, face coverings and gloves when performing tests on the track or analyzing the data in the operations room. FTE is happy to report that there were no incidents of staff contracting COVID-19 during this increased testing period. As the State of Florida began to safely reopen, FTE made the decision to place the cash collectors back in the toll booths as of June 1, 2020. FTE continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and follows the lead of Governor Ron DeSantis on this issue.

FTE has developed a robust and dynamic website (suntraxfl.com) in order to keep the tolling and automotive technology community updated with the latest news from SunTrax. The website shows photos and renderings of the facility and live feeds of the ongoing Phase 2 construction.

Phase 2 of the SunTrax program will develop the 200-acre infield inside the oval track into a center for the development of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies. SunTrax is one of only a few facilities in the world designed from the ground up specifically for CAV testing.

As a proving ground that is open for lease by private companies, the facility also addresses all the following key operational considerations:

  • Safety of all users, visitors, and staff
  • User needs for workshop spaces, specialty test equipment, data storage, communications, food service, etc.
  • Management of user access between different areas and test sectors
  • Overall site security and user privacy considerations
  • Emergency services management

Learn more about SunTrax.