Acording to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor ( D.-Fla. 14), the U.S. Department of Transportation is to award Florida’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) $4,863,280 through the FY 2021 Passenger Ferry Grant Program.
Rep. Castor says the grant will allow HART to significantly reduce operational costs while expanding the Cross Bay Ferry service, helping to grow intercity and commuter ferry service. 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.
“I look forward to continuing to work with local partners like HART, the City and the County to secure federal funds for multi-modal projects that support our local economy and neighbors,” said Castor, who championed the project.
“We are thrilled to have received this grant,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner and HART Chairperson Pat Kemp, a longtime proponent of Tampa Bay ferry service. “It’s a great down payment on permanent service. It just goes to show how strong our ferry project is and the value of our region working together.”
HART is looking to expand the Cross-Bay Ferry service route with a route linking southern Hillsborough to MacDill Air Force Base.
The Tampa Bay Times quotes Kemp as saying that the grant will be used by the authority to acquire its own 350-passenger boat and notes that currently, the Cross-Bay Ferry Service operates on leased boats with a 149-passenger capacity
“In fall 2021,” the newspaper reports, “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.”