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Hillsborough Commissioners Vote In Favor Of Ferry Lines

Courtesy of HMS Ferries
If Pinellas County and the City of Tampa sign on, the Cross-Bay Ferry could return this fall.

The Hillsborough County Commission voted Wednesday to bring back the ferry service that connects downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg.The board approved $150,000 for the Cross-Bay Ferry 2.0. Both the Pinellas County Commission and Tampa City Council would need to chip in to bring back the service this November.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman talked up the financial benefits of the ferry's pilot season from November 2016 to April 2017.

"So... about $1.3 million was our investment," said Kriseman. "The impact of that brought back to our two communities $1.6 million dollars as far as an impact to the local economy."

Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandra Murman said the service is not only a strong alternative form of transit, but it also promotes ecotourism.

"This is about really offering something to our citizens that's not just in a car or an Uber," said Murman. "It's making use of our water. We don't use our waterways."

With more than 40,000 riders during its pilot season, the Cross-Bay Ferry creates a ridership accustomed to commuting by boat Kriseman said. That, he added, prepares them for another Tampa Bay area ferry service.

Earlier Wednesday, the commissioners voted to move forward with an updated feasibility study on a ferry to take commuters from south Hillsborough County to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Commissioners voted to spend $170,000 toward research to determine whether the project is viable.

Dericka James is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2018.
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