Would you hitch a ride in an autonomous car? | Photo provided by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise
Imagine a world where you could get a lift from a driver-less car or drive completely hands-free. That’s what the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise are working on at SunTrax, a 475-acre vehicle research + development facility located near Florida Polytechnic University.
Phase One of construction on the facility began in 2017, and Phase Two is now in progress. Here’s a look at what’s included in each phase:
🚗 Phase One
A 2.25-mile oval test trackhas been operational since 2019. It’s used to test autonomous vehicles and new toll technologies with four overhead toll gantries. The track is designed for high-speed travel up to 70 mph.
Loop track with entrance + exit ramps and road construction/collision avoidance testing
Urban simulations using shipping containers that can be reconfigured like city buildings
Suburban and pick-up/drop-off areas that replicate airports, hotels, and more
Noise, vibration, and harshness testing areas with eight pavement surfaces
Wet test tracks
Phase Two also includes the Main Entry Campus, featuring flexible space for a 20,000-sqft conference center, classrooms, event space, and a full-service cafe. The infield will also house maintenance and workshop bays, plus a 75-ft observation tower to catch all the action happening in the tests.
The price tag on a project this large? $141.2 million. Phase Two is expected to be completed in 2023, when the infield will officially open for testing. Can’t wait until then to see the facility? Check out this 360 degree virtual tour before it opens next year.
Open Mic at The Pink Piano | Wed., Oct. 12 | 8-11:30 p.m. | The Pink Piano, 1015 S Florida Ave, Lakeland | Free | Support local singers or perform onstage yourself at this open mic night.
ART Connects ALZ | Thu., Oct. 13 | 2-3 p.m. | Polk Museum of Art 800 E Palmetto St, Lakeland | Free | Individuals in the early stages of dementia and their caregivers can create and appreciate art and its various forms.
The Most Awkward Network Event 2.0 | Thu., Oct. 13 | 6-8 p.m. | Union Hall, 1023 Florida Ave S, Lakeland | $15.00 | Get awkward with this networking event — register to become an EMERGE member for a discount.
Winter Haven Tastes of the World Food Tour | Wed., Oct. 12 - Fri., Oct. 14 | 2 p.m. | Downtown Winter Haven, 220 Ave. A W., Winter Haven | $45.00 - $95.00 | Follow your tastebuds around Downtown Winter Haven as you try delicious dishes and learn their history.
Architectural Tour at Polk County History Center | Sat., Oct. 15 | 11 a.m.-12 p.m. | Polk County History Center, 100 East Main Street, Bartow | Free | Join this tour of the History Center to discover its neoclassical architectural elements, ongoing restoration, and historic preservation resources.
Festival de Las Americas | Sat., Oct. 15 | 1-7 p.m. | Central Park, 251 Ave. A SW, Winter Haven | Free | Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with food, local vendors, entertainment, and a live concert on the lawn.
Fox Squirrel Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch | Sat., Oct. 15 - Sun., Oct. 23 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Fox Squirrel Corn Maze, 6151 Varn Rd., Plant City | $10.00 - $11.00 | Pick a pumpkin in any size and shape at this farm with a corn maze, hay rides, a bluegrass band, and Southern food — open Saturday + Sunday.
Amplify Lakeland: Find Your Voice. Increase Your Influence | Mon., Oct. 17 | 6-8:30 p.m. | The Well Lakeland, 114 E Parker St, Lakeland | Free | Learn about leadership from Mayor Bill Mutz, Polk County Commissioner Martha Santiago, and Toastmasters International President Matt Kinsey — refreshments provided.
Grand Opening of CIL’s Lakeland Office | Thu., Oct. 20 | 3-6 p.m. | CIL’s Lakeland Office, 2025 Crystal Wood Dr., 2nd floor, Lakeland | Free | Lakelanders are invited to the grand opening of the new Lakeland Office and learn more about the work CIL is doing in the area.*
We have amonthly guide filled with events + activities you can plan for in advance. Click the button below to bookmark ideas for upcoming date nights, family outings, and time with friends.
Sponsored by Publix Super Markets, the race promotes InnerAct Alliance’s Mission to reduce the abuse and underage use of harmful substances. Participants can compete in timed heats or go at their own pace in the family + kids fun runs. Kids run (and rock an event t-shirt) for free (Adults: $5). 🏃*
90º | Scattered thunderstorms | 60% chance of rain
Interim Lakeland city commissioner candidatesinterviewed with current commission members on Mon., Oct. 10. Commissioners will review their answers and rank their top choices before a candidate is selected at their next meeting on Mon., Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. at City Hall. See a video of the interviews here. (LkldNow)
With 24 trucks working 12-hour days, city officials are expecting storm debris to be picked up within two to four weeks. As of this week, crews are working in every collection quadrant of Lakeland. 🚛 (LkldNow)
Residents of the Peace River Village in Bartoware still waiting for power to be restored. Officials are waiting for floodwaters to recede before they can turn the power back on within the next couple of weeks. (Fox 13 News)
Polk County residents affected by Hurricane Ian may qualify for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). Online pre-registration for the food assistance program is open for Polk residentsthroughSun., Oct. 16 at 11 p.m. See the eligibility requirements here. 🍎 (The Ledger)
16 million. That’s how many gallons of wastewaterwere reportedly spilled in Polk County due to power outages during Hurricane Ian. To prevent future spills, the City of Lakeland aims to buy two more generators and build lift stations with built-in backup generators. (The Ledger)
10. The number of days until the opening of Bonnet Springs Park. Our countdown clocks are set for the Sat., Oct. 22-Sun., Oct. 23 Grand Opening Weekend of the highly-anticipated public park. Here’s a rundown on what to expect. 🌳 *
Polk County Public Schools students could soon add another class to their schedule: Air traffic control. A 10-month program is in the works for students to learn this in-demand skill at Bartow Executive Airport. The airport hopes to minimize the school district’s program costs. (The Ledger)
Visit the Winter Haven Farmers Market on Sat., Oct. 15 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. to get free foliage + trade with others at the October Polk County Plant Swap. Want a head start? Trade discussions are already starting to blossom in this Facebook group. 🪴
If you love this newsletter (and supporting local) as much as we love strolls in Munn Park, morning lattes from Hillcrest + Saturdays spent hiking Peterson Park(which is a lot) — we’ve got something for you: LALtoday just launched a membership program. Learn more + sign up. 🎉
There’s nothing fishy about this deal. Pick up select sushi for $5 today (and every Wednesday) at Publix GreenWise Market. 🍱 *
How does doing the same job for higher pay sound? Lakeland Regional Health just increased their pay rates for experienced EP Techs + RNs. Learn more about the additional benefits offered + apply online.*
On the lookout for a home with max year-round outdoor living? Meet The Rhi by Hulbert Homes — a 5 BD, 4.5 BA stunner with a detached game room + patio along with a lanai that’s perfect for starting or ending the day. 🏡 *
Meet Morning Brew, a free daily newsletter that covers the latest news across business, finance, and tech, written in a fun and witty tone that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. 4 million people are already subscribed — it’s 100% free and takes just 5 minutes to read.*
Content marked with an * is brought to you by our advertising partners and helps make this newsletter free.
Editor’s pick: Our Noire Kitchen caught my eye with their new brunch dishes, including coffee-rubbed steak and eggs. Try them at Haven Coffee Roasters in Winter Haven today from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Pro tip: Place an online pre-order to skip the line and get straight to brunch.
Missed yesterday’s newsletter? Read up on Lakeland’s Little Free Libraries, here.