A ferry that connects Tampa and St. Petersburg is closer to becoming a reality after Hillsborough County commissioners unanimously agreed Wednesday to contribute $350,000 for a pilot program.
It is time to truly showcase our transportation and our community, Commissioner Sandy Murman said.
“This is so significant, connecting two cities and really stop talking about the word ‘regional’ and actually becoming regional,” said Murman.
The ferry service will run twice daily and three times on Fridays for the six-month pilot program starting Nov. 1. Although ticket costs could change, it is expected to cost $10 for a one-way trip.
The estimated cost for the ferry is $1.4 million, which will be split equally between St. Petersburg, Tampa and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The St. Petersburg City Council already approved the water ferry service after recently reaching an agreement with HMS Ferries to take passengers across Tampa Bay.
Now that Hillsborough County and St. Pete are on board, Tampa City Council and Pinellas County are the only governments left to give the ferry pilot program the greenlight. The Tampa City Council approved the proposal Thursday and Pinellas County will weigh it on Aug. 9.
After the six-month pilot program, the four regional governments will determine whether the water ferry system between St. Petersburg and Tampa would become a permanent fixture.
“It’s a good way to test the water, no pun intended, before we commit a lot of money to it,” said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill. “Intuitively, we all believe that it will be a huge success.”
If the ferry is approved by Tampa and Pinellas, tourists and residents alike will be able to travel between the two cities with this new transportation option. Passengers could use the ferry for multiple reasons, from attending Tampa Bay Rowdies games or Tampa Bay Lightning games to avoiding rush hour traffic and attracting businesses to relocate to the Tampa Bay area.