By: Steve Nichols, FOX 13 Pinellas Bureau Reporter - bio
ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -
The notion of ferry service between Tampa and St. Petersburg is now in play.
"It's really a historic meeting," ferry advocate Ed Turanchek told FOX 13 News. "I've been in public life for 25 years and I've never been to a meeting with the mayor of St. Pete."
Turanchek made his comment before going to a meeting called by Mayor Rick Kriseman, another water transit enthusiast.
"We're surrounded by water and we're not taking advantage of it," Kriseman explained earlier Wednesday. "To not have a water taxi that I can take and go to a Lightning game or that someone from Tampa can take to downtown St. Pete and then hop on a trolley and go to the Rays doesn't make sense to me."
In May of 2013, Turanchek introduced Hillsborough officials to HMS Global Maritime, a company that operates several ferry services around the United States and Japan.
HMS-Florida general manager Mark Fernandez also attended the meeting, repeating the amazement of discovering Tampa Bay.
"It was kind of amazing that there wasn't already [ferry service] here," Fernandez said. "Geographically, it's just made for this."
In the past year, Hillsborough County has commissioned a more in-depth feasibility study of the Gibsonton-MacDill service, and secured a $4.8 million federal grant should that project move forward.
St. Petersburg's active downtown could tag along.
"When you're implementing capital investment in vessels that are only partly utilized, it only makes sense to fully utilize them, so we have the weekends, the evenings," Fernandez explained.
He said his company is now considering ferries that carry between 150 and 200 passengers.
It is far too early for any substantive details about inter-county connections, beyond a philosophical agreement.
"What people don't really understand about this, it's more than just south county and MacDill, it's Tampa to St. Pete," Turanchek said. "I think this [meeting] is going to kind of solidify the notion that the project is a lot more diverse and more energetic than people kind of understand."