LAKELAND (FOX 13)
Future changes to all of Florida's roadways will first have to pass through Polk County.
On Monday, Florida Department of Transportation officials announced plans for a $56 million test track, called Suntrax, to be built at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.
New tolling technology and driverless cars will be put to the test on site.
"We certainly intend for this to be a worldwide destination and testing facility, not only to keep Florida at the edge of tolling innovations, but also autonomous technology," said Jim Boxold, Secretary of FDOT.
State officials said more than 5.5 million drivers have Sunpass readers in their vehicles, and more than 1 billion toll transactions are process across the state of Florida each year.
By testing tolling, officials said they will be able to better determine how to meet the demands of Tampa Bay's growing traffic congestion concerns.
"You're going to hear a lot about what happens when this test track gets finished and with the technologies that come out of this process," said Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel.
Inside the Suntrax, a 200-acre facility will be used to study autonomous vehicles.
Leaders at Florida Polytechnic said the university was chosen to house Suntrax, because it is the only university in the state dedicated completely to the STEM program, an acronym for "Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."
"This test facility will provide a unique platform for Florida Poly to better prepare our students in the underlying technology areas important to transportation," said Dr. Randy K. Avent, President of Florida Polytechnic University.
Construction on the 2.2 mile loop is set to start in the spring. The project is expected to be completed by mid 2019.