Ferry project temporarily stalls for South County

Published on: January 20, 2016



Photo courtesy of Ed Turanchik.

A new pilot project is now a four-way deal between Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa.

As reported Jan. 7 in The Observer News, $5.2 million was allocated for a proposed ferry project across Tampa Bay. Hillsborough County anted up $475,000 of that amount, with the remaining $4.87 million offered through federal funds.

Since the announcement of the ferry project and the funding, no movement has been reported and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, who has been a proponent of the ferry since it was first proposed several years ago, said he was sorry to see so much work had been done to alleviate traffic on the county’s roads and bridges and nothing was moving along.

On Jan. 12, Turanchik stated there is now movement on the project.

“Just this morning the Pinellas County Commission voted 6-to-1 to support Mayor (Rick) Kriseman’s request to provide $350,000 to match the City of St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County’s commitment to a pilot project,” Turanchik said.

Hillsborough County Commissioners had taken a vote earlier in the week to put forth $350,000 for the pilot project.

“Mayor Bob Buckhorn has not yet decided whether to sign or commit money to the ferry deal in progress,” said Ashley Bauman, a mayoral staff aide Jan. 19.

According to sources in Commissioner Sandra Murman’s office, the four-way ferry deal now in progress does not replace the original proposal for a catamaran-type ferry leaving from a South County location.

But after looking at 14 sites and still getting nowhere, commissioners on both sides of the Bay decided to try a pilot project.

Money already committed to the “original ferry project” by Hillsborough County is not affected by the new $350,000 to be used in this pilot project.

If approved by Tampa’s Mayor, a ferry to run between St. Petersburg and Tampa could be purchased by May and begin a pilot program that would run between October and April.

This new plan would move the project along quickly as both Tampa and St. Pete already have ports.

St. Petersburg leaders have already said they will also try to buy a second boat during the trial period to take even more traffic off Pinellas County roads.

A second vessel is reported to cost around $900,000.

The original ferry project for South County was designed carry a good portion of the 7,800 MacDill employees who travel across Tampa Bay daily to work, and later on take on more people.