Posted Thursday, February 6th 2014 @ 8am
TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) — The first ever ferry service across Tampa Bay moved a small step closer to reality Wednesday when Hillsborough County commissioners approved $100,000 to study the proposal.
The money will pay for a study and acquisition of research already done by the two companies collaborating on the project, South Swell Development Group and HMS Ferries. The companies hope if the county is satisfied with the study results, $17 million to $20 million in public money will be appropriated to build a docking terminal and boat basin and to buy two high-speed Catamarans.
The two ferry boats would run regular daily routes between a docking terminal just north of Apollo Beach and MacDill Air Force Base, as well as trips to downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg during non-peak hours. About 5,500 MacDill employees live in southern Hillsborough County and 90 percent of them said in a survey they would use the ferry if it was available. The ferry company would also provide trams to carry the employees to their job sites once they disembark at MacDill.
Former county Commissioner Ed Turanchik, who represents the development and ferry companies, pitched the proposal as a low-cost transportation option that would also benefit the local economy and the environment. Turanchik said the ferry would initially take 1,200 cars a day off area highways. The average MacDill employee’s commute would be cut by 30 minutes, Turanchik said, saving the employee $2,500 a year in gasoline and tolls.
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