Florida SunTrax centre wins top IBTTA award

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise R&D facility has four toll sites for testing
Charging, Tolling & Road Pricing / September 16, 2020
By Ben Spencer
FTE centre tests tolling and other transport tech (Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise)
FTE centre tests tolling and other transport tech (© FTE)

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) has won the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s (IBTTA) 2020 President’s Award for Excellence for the development of an R&D testing centre. 

The SunTrax facility is being developed in collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDoT) to test tolling and other emerging transportation technologies in controlled environments. 

FDoT secretary Kevin J. Thibault says: “The testing and research being conducted at the SunTrax facility are critical to providing mobility solutions for a growing Florida.”

SunTrax – situated on 475 acres centrally located between Tampa and Orlando in Polk County – 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.

The facility’s multi-lane track and operations centre were both created during the first phase of construction which was completed in 2019. 

The track has four toll sites which can also be adapted to test equipment from different vendors.

IBTTA says Suntrax provides access for simulations, relieving the need to close active lanes. Truck platooning, autonomous vehicles and toll transactions have been successfully conducted, the association adds. 

As part of the project, FTE has developed a website which includes photos and renderings of the facility as well as live feeds of the ongoing Phase 2 construction. 

Phase 2 will include a 200-acre infield inside the oval track into a centre for the development of connected and automated vehicle technologies.

FTE also won IBTTA's Toll Excellence Award for technology alongside six other recipients from the tolling industry who were recognised in other categories for providing the best projects and solutions. 

Washington State Department of Transportation earned the award in the customer service and marketing outreach category while other winners included Illinois Tollway (social responsibility) and E-470 Public Highway Authority (toll operations, engineering and maintenance).

David Machamer, chair of the awards committee, says: “Against historic, extraordinary circumstances this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these award winners continue to find ways to break new ground that ultimately will mean safer, more reliable and better experiences for our customers, the driving public.”

Separately, IBTTA president Samuel Johnson has been promoted from his role as chief operations officer at Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) to CEO of the California-based transport agency.

The association says Johnson is the first person of colour to hold the position at TCA and the highest-ranking black leader in Orange County Transportation, responsible for an annual average budget of nearly $400 million. 

IBTTA executive director Pat Jones says: “As IBTTA president, Samuel has advanced vital efforts to improve diversity, social and racial inclusion and has been a champion of helping young people enter the tolling industry through mentoring and internships. Some in our association call Samuel our ‘wartime president’.”