April 17, 2024
Driver's Seat

Photo: CFX

About a mile of the Lake/Orange Expressway will include an in-road system that charges electric vehicles.

Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics

Driver's Seat

Michelle Maikisch is steering one of the largest toll road agencies in the nation.

Amy Keller | 5/31/2023

Pursuing a career in transportation made sense to Michelle Maikisch, a ninth-generation Floridian who grew up in a family of engineers and farmers in Cottondale, a rural town in the Florida Panhandle. Her father was an engineer for the State Road Department, the predecessor to the Florida Department of Transportation. Other family members also worked for the transportation department. “I’ve just about been around transportation my entire life,” she says.

But Maikisch knew she’d “caught the bug” when she went to work for Hatch Mott MacDonald, a consulting engineering firm in Pensacola, in the early 2000s and was doing contract and communications work on a project expanding S.R. 87 in Navarre Beach. She recalls being at the job site of a bridge replacement project as they poured the deck of the bridge and marveling to an engineer about “how cool” it was to be part of something that would last for generations. “Transportation infrastructure is something that takes years to develop and does typically outlive many of the people who work on the projects,” she says.

Two decades later, Maikisch is leading a slew of transportation projects as executive director of the Central Florida Expressway Authority, the regional agency known as CFX that oversees a 125-mile expressway system in Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. In a recent interview, she talked about her background, notable road projects and key challenges that lie ahead.

Career Path: After her stint at Hatch Mott MacDonald, Maikisch served for three years as a public information specialist at the engineering and construction firm PBS&J. She joined the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority (the pre-cursor to CFX) in 2008 as a public affairs coordinator and rose through the agency’s ranks, serving as director of communications and public affairs, chief of staff/public affairs officer and becoming executive director in February when Laura Kelley retired from the role. “All of the projects we have in Osceola County, I worked on them as concept feasibility studies in the early 2000s, so it’s really neat now to be executive director — to see those projects fully developing and, in my tenure, we hope to get them out of the ground and people driving on them,” says Maikisch.

Road Works: “We have $1 billion worth of construction projects in the works right now. Making sure we deliver those projects timely and safely is a priority,” says Maikisch. Key projects include extending the Poinciana Parkway north to C.R. 532 in Osceola County approximately four miles north of I-4 and S.R. 429. “The state would pick up from 532 and take it all the way to I-4 with a new interchange and connection to 429,” Maikisch says. “This is a critical regional project. If you live in Osceola and you drive on the Poinciana Parkway, there’s no good way to get to I-4.” Another project — the five-mile Lake/Orange Expressway — will connect U.S. 27 in Lake County to S.R. 429 in Orange County. Almost a mile of the roadway will include an in-road system that charges electric vehicles while they’re driving on it. The agency is also planning to extend S.R. 414, which runs south and east from U.S. Highway 441 in Apopka to Maitland Boulevard, to connect directly with I-4, and it’s studying whether to build a direct connector between S.R. 417 and the Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Confronting Growth: “Within the last few months, our board adopted our 2045 master plan, which basically said looking out to 2045, there’s potentially $22 billion worth of needs in this region, and the expressway authority assessments were that we could possibly meet $12 billion — half of that — if the growth continues. That’s not nearly enough. The key to all of it is going to be partnerships and collaboration, working with everybody that we can — the cities, the counties, the private sector, the state, the federal government. All of that is going to have to play a part in the solutions we provide,” Maikisch says. 

Tags: Transportation, Feature

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