Anchors aweigh: Hillsborough County approves Cross Bay Ferry agreement

cross bay ferry 3
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

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


One comment

  • Mr. Right

    August 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    It amazes me that after a failed test period these cities still want to sink more money into this boondoggle.

    The only explain I can think of is that it is payback for some aggressive lobbying. Smells like another solyndra deal.

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