Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry Project
The Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry project is a public-private partnership proposal by Akerman Senterfitt and HMS Ferries, Inc. (HMS) to start commuter, recreational and tourist passenger ferry service in Tampa Bay. HMS is a leading provider of passenger vessel services in the U.S. The proposed service would utilize fast, low wake, catamaran passenger ferries.
The initial commuter service would run frequently during rush hours from a terminal located between Gibsonton and Apollo Beach to MacDill Air Force Base. The South County terminal would have a large park and ride lot. MAFB commuters would be distributed around the base by a system of trams.
This service would provide faster, cheaper and higher-quality commuting connections for the 5300 military families who reside in south Hillsborough County, take thousands of vehicle trips off our roadways thereby alleviating congestion, and create a new mode of travel to support the growth coming to South Hillsborough County.
HMS could also deliver off-peak recreational and tourism services, providing trips between South Hillsborough County and downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg for Lightning and Rays games, concerts, dining, shopping, special events and general excursions. These services could add new and exciting components to Tampa Bay's life style options and tourism appeal. These services would run as market conditions warrant.
This proposal recommends a phased-in approach for this service. HMS would pay the operating costs of the service, the single largest expense, though other project structures are also possible. The most significant fact is that HMS is prepared to invest significant resources and expertise to help this project move forward. The cost of the initial vessels and connecting trams at MacDill is under $7 million. Waterway, docks, parking, and ferry terminal costs are estimated to cost between $9 and $11 million, though a strictly temporary "pilot" option might be done for as low as $4 million. The specific option selected and approach would be up to local government. An additional vessel or vessels would be purchased only after the first year of operation, and then only assuming there was sufficient ridership demand. This cost would run between $4 million and $8 million depending on the specific vessel configuration needed to meet ridership demand.