Plans for a ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa are moving forward. Ferry companies have until Friday night to submit final bids to the city of St. Pete for the pilot program that would run from October 2016 until April 2017.
Ferry operators will submit proposals on how to best shuttle commuters between the two largest downtowns in the bay area.
City leaders in both Tampa and St. Pete have also expressed interest in using the ferry service for major events like Tampa Bay Lightning games and the 2017 NCAA National Championship football game at Raymond James Stadium.
In their proposals, ferry companies will have to address details such as docking areas, operating times, cost, passenger capacity, and security. Temporary docking stations have already been proposed at the Tampa Convention Center and the Vinoy Basin in St. Pete.
It's been made clear that ferry companies must have one or more vessels that can transport at least 100 passengers and operate a sustained speed of 25 knots.
The project is spearheaded by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman. The city of St. Pete has already approved $350,000 in funding for the ferry service. That money would come from BP settlement funds from the oil spill in 2010.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has expressed concerns about how Tampa will fund its portion of the project. He has said he doesn't want all of the risk to fall back on the taxpayer if the ferry service sinks.
The two mayors as well as city leaders in both Pinellas and Hilsborough counties will have to come to an agreement before accepting a bid.
Depending on that process, we could see a bid accepted as early as January 2016.