TAMPA — The proposed Cross-Bay Ferry route linking southern Hillsborough to MacDill Air Force Base just picked up a new fare — $4.9 million from the federal government for a new boat.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, announced late Monday that the U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding a grant totaling $4,863,280 to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority for the passenger ferry service.
“This grant will allow (the transit authority) to significantly reduce operational costs while expanding the Cross-Bay Ferry service, helping to grow intercity and commuter ferry service,” Castor said in a statement. “It will grow a popular transit option between Tampa and St. Pete, reduce congestion, create local jobs, support small businesses and increase connectivity in the Tampa Bay region.”
Hillsborough Commissioner Pat Kemp called the grant “a great down payment on permanent service.”
Kemp said the grant will be used by the authority to acquire its own 350-passenger boat. Currently, the Cross-Bay Ferry Service operates on leased boats with a 149-passenger capacity.
The federal passenger ferry grant program provides competitive funding for projects that support passenger ferry systems in urbanized areas and are awarded on factors that include age and condition of existing ferry boats, terminals and related infrastructure; benefits to riders and project readiness; and connectivity to other modes of transportation.
The grant can be extended for five additional years, Castor said.
The projected public investment of an expanded ferry service running between southern Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base could reach $54 million before the first boat sets sail in 2025.
In fall 2021, local governments authorized a new four-year agreement with private companies HMS Ferries and South Swell Development to continue the seasonal Cross-Bay Ferry from Tampa to St. Petersburg, expanding to a year-round service in 2024.