TAMPA, Fla. — HMS Ferries Inc. and South Swell Development Corp. announced their partnership in making the Cross-Bay Ferry a permanent service by 2022 Tuesday afternoon. 

The Cross-Bay Ferry currently links downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The plan is to link MacDill Air Force Base commuter service to the current Cross-Bay Ferry service. The business partnership claims it will cover all operation and most maintenance and repair costs to the newly proposed ferry service for the next 20 years of operations.  

"This major financial commitment by HMS ferries is a testament to our confidence in the Tampa Bay region and the potential demand for water transportation," President of HMS Ferries, Matt Miller said. "We believe that creating a complete, seven-day a week ferry system would work best." 

The proposal includes a new ferry dock being placed in Williams Park along with a ticketing service to serve as the South County ferry terminal. It would be placed at the existing intersection of U.S. 41 and Riverview Road and would connect to a tram service to connect ferry passengers to MacDill Airforce Base.

The ferry vessels would seat 149 riders and connect to trams on the MacDill Air Force Base. The trams would be theme-park styled to load people on and off quickly. 

The cost for the add-on ferry terminal and improvements would be $15.2 million. The cost for acquisition of additional, 149 passenger ferry vessels and trams is estimated at $21.3 million.  

The proposed tram service on MacDill would operate on all work days except federal holidays. The ferry service would operate weeknights Monday through Friday and weekends between downtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg and south Hillsborough County. 

The total cost of the proposed ferry is estimated at $36.5 million. The partnership businesses would cover around a third of the cost. 

The proposed ferry would be eligible for funds from the Hillsborough County tax and Florida Department of Transportation multi-modal capital funds. 

The partnership behind the proposal says it's a great deal for taxpayers.

"This would be the only major local or regional transit service in Florida that doesn't require local or state operating subsidies," said the attorney for the project, Ed Turanchik. "At the same time, the capital cost for this system is less than the cost of widening suburban roadways just a few miles." 

The current ferry started its operations in November and is expected to end at the end of April. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he is pushing for an extension until the proposal ferry is under operation. 

The ferry currently picks and drops riders off at North Straub Park in St. Petersburg, and at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.

The Cross-Bay Ferry costs include:

  • $8 for adults
  • $5 for seniors, military (active/retired) and college students with an ID
  • $3 for children ages 5-18
  • and is free for children ages 4 and younger.

The ferry first launched in 2016.  

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