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Pinellas commission jumps on board St.Pete-Tampa ferry

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by
Rick Kriseman
Rick Kriseman

Three governments down and one to go before the launching of a high-speed ferry service y service between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Pinellas commissioners voted Tuesday to commit $350,000 as its portion of the $1.4 million projected for the six-month pilot that would run from Nov. 1 through April 30. The purpose of the pilot is to gauge long-term interest and the viability of a permanent high-speed ferry service between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Pinellas is the third government to sign on to the project. St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County have agreed to kick in $350,000 each.

Tampa must also agree, or the project will die.

The idea of a ferry between St. Petersburg and Tampa has long been talked about, but a push by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has given the idea life.

It’s “a chance for all of us to make history,” Kriseman told Pinellas commissioners on Tuesday. “To get four governments to work together for something that has a regional impact” is remarkable.

Although Kriseman gained the support of Pinellas commissioners, they had their doubts. Dave Eggers, Karen Seel and John Morroni were concerned that the pilot project would be funded by governments rather than private companies.

“I think it’s obviously a great idea,” Eggers said. “I’m excited about having more opportunities for transit … [but] I wish that we could do this on a private basis and not government subsidized to this extent.”

Seel agreed, saying she would support the six-month pilot, but “I’m not committed to providing long-term funding at this point.”

Under the proposal, each of the four governments would provide a quarter of the $1.4 million for the pilot program. The ferry would run seven days a week; twice a day on every day but Friday when it would run three times.

The target audience is daily commuters who might be looking for a way out of the traffic congestion between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The schedule is also calculated to appeal to tourists who might take the ferry from Tampa in order to explore St. Pete, Pinellas and the beaches.

“What is not included are dinner cruises or cruises to nowhere,” Kriseman said. “The purpose of the ferry is to provide transportation, not entertainment.”

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