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Talks About A Ferry Service Cross The Bay

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, right, hold a joint news conference after talking privately about funding a ferry service to connect their downtown cores.

Commuters between Tampa and St. Petersburg might soon have a new way to cross Tampa Bay that does not involve a bridge.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are discussing how to pay for a ferry that would connect the two cities by water.

Kriseman said it'll take $350,000 from each city and their two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough, to get things started.  A trial ferry could begin operating this coming October.

There have been complaints that the city’s search for a ferry company was limited in scope and didn't give companies enough time to make a presentation.  But Kriseman defended the process.

“We sent that request out to a number of different ferry services,” Kriseman said. “The fact that only one responded – we have no control over how many respond. The one that happens to be complaining a little bit was aware that we were looking for a ferry service and certainly had an opportunity to put their qualifications together and submit them.”

St. Petersburg’s mayor is appearing before Hillsborough County Commission to discuss helping to pay for the pilot project. He has yet to schedule a presentation to the Pinellas County Commission.

Tampa Mayor Buckhorn is a maybe - depending on a deeper analysis of the ridership and cost projections.

”I think the idea makes sense. I think connecting our two downtowns is the right thing to do,” Buckhorn said Tuesday. “I just think we have to take a good hard look at the numbers, get the consultants out of the way, really crunch this so that we can figure out if the numbers are real and find a way to move forward.”

Buckhorn wants a better idea if the projected 40,000 trips across the bay from October 2016 to April 2017 are realistic.

There's also talk of asking state lawmakers for $900,000 to pay for a second ferry to operate during the pilot project. The service would run from St. Petersburg's Vinoy Basin to the Tampa Convention Center.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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