The full scope of the project referenced above involves construction of a facility that FDOT calls “a continuously evolving, nationally recognized center for the development of innovative transportation technology solutions.” In essence, it will be a proving ground for new technologies — with a focus on autonomous vehicles — as they evolve. When complete, the center will offer everything from an environmental test chamber which will simulate differing weather conditions, to an area where pick-ups and drop-offs can be replicated, and much more. However, according to Walt Thomas, Redland’s division superintendent for grading/trimming operations, this 200+ acre “infield of dreams” is literally framed by a precision-graded 2.25 mile oval track.
“The SunTrax project is being headed up by Bergeron Land Development (Davie, Fla.), which, as the GC, did all the preliminary work on the track,” he said. “The oval is designed to handle vehicles at a 70 mph speed, much the same as actual turnpike travel. Because FDOT had some very strict tolerances on the track surface itself, the grade had to be extremely precise. So when we got out here, all the rough grading had been completed and we were brought in to prepare it for the asphalt course.”
It’s important to note that Florida differs from other states — particularly those that deal with colder temperatures — in their approach to highway paving. While such states can have up to 8-inches of aggregate base covered by an equal thickness of asphalt or concrete, such is not the case in the Sunshine State, said Thomas. “Here, the base is the key component; most of our major highways are topped with only 3.75 inches of asphalt or concrete,” he said. “So the demands for accuracy on the 8” lime rock base — with a 95% relative compaction — were strict. On this job, what we might lack in depth, we are more than making up for in precision.”