With the assistance of nearly $5 million in federal and state funds, the long-term operations are a little brighter.
As part of the $77 billion budget Rick Scott signed Monday, $1 million has been appropriated for the improvements based on legislation sponsored by state Sen. Aaron Bean and state Rep. Janet Adkins.
The other $3.97 million comes from a Passenger Ferry Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which announced the grants Monday.
Such grants provide funding to existing and new ferry services, with the local application filed by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. The authority will locally administer the grant.
“This funding overcomes what was perceived to be a nearly insurmountable amount of capital dollars needed to make structural improvements necessary,” said City Council member John Crescimbeni, who chairs the St. Johns River Ferry Commission.
The commission has oversight of ferry operations after taking it over from the Jacksonville Port Authority in 2012.
Within the 6-cent gas tax extension approved last week is language that calls for the commission and authority to have future discussions about transferring ferry operations to the JTA.
One of the bigger hang-ups that couldn’t be decided — and not discussed in detail — was the outstanding infrastructure costs like the slip walls and who would pay. Estimates over the past couple of years have ranged from $8 million to $11 million, but Crescimbeni said a new analysis is needed and will soon be done.
Regardless, one of those concerns is largely taken care of now, he said.
In an email, Ed Burr, the authority’s board chair, said the authority is “proud to be a part of the collaborative effort” in improving the ferry and serving Northeast Florida citizens and looked forward toward that working relationship.
Replacing the slip walls of the Mayport and Fort George landings has been considered a must for the future of the St. Johns River Ferry.