Future of transportation being tested in Polk County

Local News

A 2.25 mile oval track in Polk County hopes to be the home of Florida’s transportation future.

SunTrax will test autonomous vehicles and do research on emerging transportation methods in its 200 acre technology center.

The facility collaborates with Florida Polytechnic University to keep Florida on the cutting edge, exactly where newly-elected Governor Ron DeSantis wants the state to be.

“We know things like autonomous vehicles are here,” DeSantis said.

“You’re going to continue to see more technological developments, so I want FDOT to be very nimble and very welcoming of that type of change.” 

The governor points to the Tampa Bay area, the I-4 corridor and the Miami area as the hot spots of congestion in the state.

In a tour of the SunTrax facility Wednesday DeSantis said that safety is his administration’s top transportation priority, but part of his plan is to use emerging technologies to help reduce congestion.

“We really wanna embrace innovation and technology,” DeSantis said.

“If you were to go back 10 years ago and discuss what we need to do, no one would’ve been talking about ridesharing. They wouldn’t have been talking about a lot of this stuff, because we just didn’t know. So we are looking at it now.”

FDOT officials in the Tampa Bay area are also searching for the newest creative ideas from a variety of sources.

“We look to associations of state highway transportation officials that meet every year and bring ideas to the table,” said David Gwynn, secretary of FDOT District 7, which covers the Tampa Bay area.

“We’re always looking for new ideas from academia, there’s a lot of research going on. And you look at this technology center that we’re building, are there things we can do with technology that might mean we don’t need as many lanes on the highway?”

The governor says the purpose of his listening tour is to hear more creative solutions for Florida’s transportation problems.

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