Talks of Tampa to St. Pete ferry move forward

Interest in the idea of a high-speed ferry from St. Petersburg to Tampa is picking up political momentum. 

Tampa's Mayor, Bob Buckhorn told reporters Wednesday, he was willing to entertain the idea after a preliminary discussion with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on the topic. 

Buckhorn said he will take "a couple of weeks" to talk to community leaders and study the numbers.

Wednesday, Kriseman addressed Hillsborough County commissioners, where one of them told FOX 13 News she would make a motion to support the proposal. 

"I'm totally anxious to get this thing moving and get something on the water," commissioner Sandra Murman said, agreeing the two counties and two cities need to be involved. "I think it's very important that we all share equally because we will all benefit equally from this."

St. Petersburg's city council earmarked $350,000 toward the proposed $1.4 million pilot project. The money would pay for one 98-foot, 150-passenger catamaran ferry that would run between the two downtowns - from October, 2016 through next March. 

The only operator who responded to St. Petersburg's request for qualifications proposed four round-trips per day, Fridays through Sundays with excursions and special event service Tuesdays through Thursdays. 

The ferry would dock next to Tampa's convention center and in St. Petersburg's Vinoy basin.

The fares have not been determined. Kriseman said once all four governments agree to participate, he will direct his staff to finalize the pertinent numbers.

He added, "we really actually won't know until we do it, that's why you do a find out if something is going to work." 

Kriseman said in order to have a ferry operational by October, details will have to be worked out by the end of May.

The Pinellas County commission has not scheduled a discussion of the proposed ferry service, but Commission Chairman, Charlie Justice told FOX 13 News a date will be set this week.