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Anchors aweigh: Hillsborough County approves Cross Bay Ferry agreement

The service would begin Nov. 1.

Hillsborough County Commissioners excitedly signed off on their share of another season of the Cross Bay Ferry connecting downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg. 

The approved interlocal agreement would cover two seasons of service running from Nov. 1 to April 30 for the next two years. 

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is spearheading efforts to continue seasonal service, was on hand for questions during a Hillsborough County Commission meeting Wednesday, but none were asked. 

Instead, Commissioner Les Miller immediately and with fervor moved to approve the $150,000 local subsidy for the service. Several board members rushed to second his motion and the expenditure was approved unanimously. 

“The return on investment is incredible,” said Commissioner Sandy Murman. “I think that’s a point that needs to be made to the public, too.”

St. Pete City Council last year approved a contract with HMS Ferries to manage and operate the Cross Bay Ferry for up to three seasons. Season one concluded earlier this year after serving 52,000 passengers.

The interlocal agreement also includes a revenue-sharing provision. The city of St. Pete would receive half of any revenue exceeding $400,000 and split that revenue equally with Pinellas and Hillsborough and the city of Tampa.

However, revenues in the most recent season did not reach the $400,000 threshold and the city does not expect the next two seasons to reach it either, meaning it’s unlikely the local governments would recoup any funds.

The Cross Bay Ferry runs limited weekday commuter service with more frequent weekend and evening service between the two cities. 

Plans are underway in Hillsborough County to establish permanent service and also add connections to south Hillsborough County and the Westshore business district, in addition to downtown Tampa

The Hillsborough County Commission earlier this month voted to shift planning for that project to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. 

The Pinellas County Commission approved the interlocal agreement Tuesday, contingent on approval from the other three local governments. Tampa City Council is scheduled to consider the agreement Thursday.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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