Plan pitched to make Cross Bay Ferry permanent

Boat sold nearly 8,000 tickets in March
Posted at 3:00 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 17:35:45-04

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is pushing for a plan to keep the Cross Bay Ferry around after the pilot program is due to end at the end of April.

Hagan wants the ferry to be funded less by taxpayer dollars, and more by the private ferry company. He's hoping demand for the ferry, which sold nearly 8,000 tickets in the month of March, will be enough to convince HMS Ferries and South Swell to keep the boat afloat.

Hagan also wants Hillsborough County to use $22 million, in BP oil settlement money, to build a new marina where the ferries could be serviced and operated out of.

Hagan is presenting the ideas to commissioners Wednesday afternoon.

He hopes the ferry's strong ridership numbers can pave the way for more routes, like the long discussed ferry to MacDill Air Force Base.

Hagan's plan is to have the private ferry companies take on the venture, in exchange for a public private partnership for 20 years, if the ferry company is successful.

Funding for the project would still need to be finalized by Hagan says Wednesday's discussion is a first step towards keeping and expanding ferry service in Tampa Bay.

The Cross Bay Ferry sold 7,990 tickets in March, a 31% increase from February. Since the ferry started running, 31, 362 people have hopped on board. The final run for the ferry (unless it is expanded permanently) will be Sunday, April 30.

The ferry has also partnered with the Tampa Bay Rays to have a later ferry for fans to get to the game, with free transportation between the dock and the stadium from PSTA.

Some people aren't thrilled about expanding the ferry service permanently and fear it will put taxpayers on the hook for more money.