Tampa Bay High Speed Ferry Project
The Tampa Bay Passenger Ferry (TBPF) project is a public-private partnership project by Hillsborough County, HMS Ferries, Inc. (HMS) and South Swell Development Group designed 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. South Swell is a leading developer of waterfront restoration and marine projects.
This project would utilize fast, low wake, catamaran passenger ferries that would carry between 150 and 200 passengers each. The commuter service would run during rush hours from Schultz Park, located between Gibsonton and Apollo Beach, to MacDill Air Force Base. The terminal would include a boat basin, ticket and concession area and park and ride lot. Once on base, riders would be transported by tram system.
The MAFB service would provide faster, less-costly and congestion proof commuting connections for the 7800 military families who reside in south Hillsborough County. It would take at least 62,000 vehicle miles of travel off our congested roadways each day. It would save MAFB families that use it between $2,000 and $6,500 each year. It would cut vehicular greenhouse gas emissions and NOx emissions (which pollute our Bay) by at least 6,000 tons and 15 tons annually, respectively.
HMS could also provide off-peak recreational and tourism services such as 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 would be put in place as market conditions warrant.
The project would also create a waterfront recreational park and add 46 acres of natural environmental lands to the Schultz Park preserve, providing a greenway connection to the Golden Astor scrub to the east. Recreational features would include canoe, kayak, bicycle rentals, hiking trails, a concession area, and a beach for fishing and swimming.
HMS has agreed to take the unprecedented step of paying for the operating costs of this service. It believes that this service can be profitable. South Swell has agreed to provide 46 acres of environmental lands. The project capital cost is approximately $24 million, of which $5.3 million has been awarded by the federal government. It is expected that a range of local, state and federal funds would be used to cover these costs.