Tampa, Florida -- Could the thriving cruise industry float right out of Tampa Bay?
Yes, according to a new study that shows the Sunshine Skyway is too short for new and improved cruise ships.
Basically, these taller cruise ships coming out just can't fit. So, after a pre-feasibility study from the Florida Department of Transportation, a few options have been announced.
If nothing is done, Port Tampa Bay says the region will lose out on over 2.5 million passengers, resulting in an estimated annual economic hit of close to $1 billion and up to 5,000 cruise-related jobs.
The FDOT study goes even further saying the Tampa Bay region would miss out on between 33 to 35 million cruise passengers through 2043.
A possible solution is to build a new port west of the Skyway Bridge.
The study says that it would need to be on at least 44 acres, house 4 ships, and have a 9,000 parking spaces.Total cost would be between $632 and $647-million dollars.
Another option -- building a new Skyway.
The total cost of construction and demolition would be approximately $2 billion dollars and the construction period for a new bridge would be 4 years. The current bridge would remain open during construction and demolition of the old bridge would take 2 years.
Finally, the last option, raising the current Skyway bridge.
The total cost would be $1.5 billion dollars, and the bridge would need to be closed for approximately 2 years. with total construction time lasting 3 years.
"There are certain itineraries now that could not come here so our passengers can not plan accordingly with Tampa Bay in mind. If that's affecting us already a little bit, in the future it's going to be worse and worse," says Raul Alfonso, Executive Vice President of Tampa Bay.
So how long until a decision is made? Alfonso says months, maybe years and he hopes for the region's input in a final decision. He says if nothing is done and we lose the chance of ships coming here, the ships could go to other states along the gulf, which could have a major economic impact on Florida.
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