The 108-mile-long Sunshine State Parkway opened for traffic on January 25, 1957, heralding a new future for toll roads in the state of Florida. In the past 50 years, Florida's population has increased five-fold. Florida's Turnpike has grown as well to 460 center-line miles, accommodating an average of over 1.4 million trips per day. This month, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer James L. Ely and other dignitaries gathered in Pompano Beach and Orlando to commemorate the Turnpike's 50th anniversary.
"Prior to 1957, there were no limited access roads in Florida, only local roads and U.S. highways with red lights," said Ely. "At that time, it provided a new opportunity to drive at 70 mph without stops between south Florida cities." Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is now the second-largest turnpike in the nation based on revenue and the highest bond-rated toll agency, with annual revenues of almost $650 million and more than two million drivers using the toll roads every day.
The Turnpike Enterprise remains on the cutting edge of technology, safety and customer service. Its SunPass pre-paid electronic toll-collection system, intelligent transportation systems, open-road tolling and a fiber-optic backbone have reduced congestion, improved customer satisfaction and reduced operating expenses.
For example, from the Turnpike Enterprise's two traffic management centers, operators can control 19 dynamic message signs along the Turnpike Mainline. The signs are used to inform Turnpike customers of downstream roadway conditions and are supplemented by radio advisories.
The Turnpike Enterprise also is an active participant in SunGuideSM, Florida's intelligent transportation system. SunGuide gives motorists precise and current information about traffic conditions.
Since 1957, the Turnpike Enterprise has been a leader in implementing programs that promote safe travel. In FY 2005, recognizing that increases in traffic mean a greater potential for crossover accidents, the Enterprise implemented a bold initiative to install median guardrails to protect the entire length of the Turnpike Mainline, allocating $65 million to expedite completion of the Median Guardrail Program. Design and installation of 187 miles of guardrail in nine counties was completed in only 15 months--three months earlier than originally planned.
Florida's Turnpike Enterprise recently celebrated the opening of the final 5.5 miles of Toll Road 429, the Daniel Webster Western Beltway, around Orlando. The Turnpike Enterprise is implementing widening and alignment improvement projects in Broward, Orange and Palm Beach counties, along with new interchanges and toll-plaza renovations in Palm Beach, Okeechobee and Orange counties.