Officials move forward with plans for ferry service across bay

One day after St. Petersburg's city council set aside $350,000 for a pilot ferry service between St. Pete and Tampa, Mayor Rick Kriseman received tentative invitations to make presentations to the commissions of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. 

He said he expects similar interest from the city of Tampa. 

"For this to truly be the regional project that it is, we need to have all of the players at the table," Kriseman told FOX 13.

Under Kriseman's initiative, each of the four local governments would contribute similar amounts toward a six-month trial run. 

"Ideally, we would like to try and get this pilot up and running this coming October, so we're now less than a year away and that's why we're fast tracking it," Kriseman said.

St. Petersburg has already sent out a request for proposals from ferry operators, asking for their qualifications and business plans for connecting the two major downtowns with ferry service. 

The deadline for submissions is December 18th.  The mayor told FOX 13 his sense of urgency comes from a major event in Tampa. 

"Tampa will be hosting a national championship game in the January-February (2017) time frame," Kriseman said. "It certainly would be a way for those who want to go watch the game that are here in St Pete to get over to Tampa, without having to go through traffic and driving." 

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long said she is among those who has wondered why Tampa Bay does not employ ferry services. 

Small ferries are used in the Clearwater Beach area, and in the early to mid 1900s, passenger ferries worked the Pinellas shoreline. 

The St. Petersburg Museum of History's Nevin Sitler said there has never been a ferry connecting Tampa and St. Petersburg. 

"The train service played a pivotal role in transporting goods and passengers from those two cities," Sitler said. "Although the train service was slow."