County Commissioners vote to bring back the Cross Bay Ferry

- Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to commit funding to bring back the Cross Bay Ferry, which wrapped up a pilot program earlier this year.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who has been one of the biggest backers of the ferry, made a presentation to the commission, urging members to vote to help fund the ferry.

"This was clearly a transit option that the residents in Hillsborough and Pinellas County made good use of," Kriseman told commissioners.

The St. Pete mayor said, during its pilot program which wrapped up in April 2017, the ferry carried 40,000 people across the bay.

"The impact of that brought back to our two communities 1.6 million dollars, as far as an impact to the local economy," he said.

Kriseman has been pushing to bring it back this fall and he's asking the governing bodies in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties for $150,000 a piece.

A Department of Transportation grant cut the cost of the program from its original price of $350,000 each.

Kriseman has already received commitments from the St. Pete City Council and now the Hillsborough County Commission. He's hoping everyone else will soon be on board.

"Certainly that's our hope," he said. "That's what I know the hope is of residents on both sides of the bay who continue to say, 'is the ferry coming back? We want to ride the ferry again.'"

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been noncommittal because the city is currently in the middle of its budget talks.

Kriseman said a decision will have to be made by August 1.

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