Madiera Beach ferry service gets close to launch

- Madeira Beach is the latest community getting ready to launch ferry service. 

Tampa Bay Ferry was the only respondent to an official request for proposals, and claims it can start service as soon as the paperwork is finalized. 

"I've been working on this since 1999," Captain Mark Hubbard told FOX 13 News Tuesday, expressing a frustration with Pinellas County's failure to adopt water borne transit until recently. 

Madeira Beach asked for bids to provide two types of service. First, shuttles for people who park on the mainland to attend special events on the island. 

"We don't have a lot of parking out here on the beach and our events are starting to draw six and seven thousand people an event," Mayor Travis Palladeno explained.

Second, Tampa Bay Ferry proposes running loops through Madeira Beach neighborhoods six times a day, three days a week. That would connect residents and visitors to popular destinations like the city's municipal complex and Johns Pass Village. 

"On the Gulf beaches, almost all the streets dead end on the water and a seawall and a storm drain," Hubbard said. "People can just come out and jump on the boat as it goes by."

Hubbard also disclosed details of a new project under construction - a high speed catamaran capable of traveling around 40 miles per hour. It is designed for longer routes over open water. 

"I'm hoping that we will be able to run from Ft. De Soto to Anna Maria twice a day, and then I will link Ft. DeSoto to St Pete Beach, and then possibly to downtown St. Petersburg," Hubbard said. 

He claimed discussions were already underway with Anna Maria, which is on Manatee County's northernmost island across the mouth of Tampa Bay from Pinellas County.

The mayor and the skipper are hoping Madeira Beach's neighborhood ferry service can start in May. The city's manager said that might be a bit optimistic, but thought it should be available sometime this summer.

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