For at least another year, seasonal ferry service is coming back to Tampa Bay, but unlike past years, the feeling is different in 2023 as the current Board of County Commissioners brings a renewed spirit of collaboration and vision to deliver for the families, community, and shared economic growth of the region.
In June, the Board voted unanimously to move forward with the 2023-24 intercity ferry season, which is primed to build on another record-setting year and welcome more riders than ever. At the vote, the community showed up to make sure our leaders know Tampa supports the ferry, and the Board assured everyone that the passage of continued Cross-Bay Ferry service was a sure thing, bringing optimism that our elected officials see the support of and potential for ferries on our underutilized waterways.
Now, as the Board prepares to hear a July 12th progress report on the comprehensive planning for a regional, permanent, and year-round ferry service connecting south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base in addition to service between Tampa and St. Pete, the Tampa Bay Ferries Alliance looks forward to helping bring this long anticipated – and long awaited – transportation resource to fruition.
In the short time since the Alliance was launched, we’ve continued to hear one question. Whether it’s military families, frustrated commuters, or just everyday residents that can see our traffic-free bay and compare it to our clogged motorways, the question remains the same: what’s taking so long?
The truth, though, is that the work is underway to ensure that Hillsborough County builds a regional ferry service that is fiscally and environmentally responsible, sustainable, and rider-focused to ensure it delivers results for the communities and local service members of Tampa Bay.
That’s why an opportunity like Wednesday’s report is so important. The newest Commissioners will hear their first comprehensive update, while veterans on the Commission can learn of the progress seen during their time in office to find ways to work together and solve one of our region’s fundamental issues.
Like they say, neither Rome nor Tampa Bay nor a ferry system were built in a day. The long-awaited benefits of making this vision a reality – millions of vehicles miles removed from our streets, avoided costs of new roadways, and millions of hours saved from not sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic – is closer than ever, though.
We look forward to joining fellow residents, our County Commissioners and ferry supporters on the 12th to make sure we continue to work together and make this project a reality. Together, we can deliver for Tampa Bay and show that we can all solve seemingly insurmountable challenges both now and in the future.