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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 6, 201910:57 AM EST

JTA awarded $3.9 million federal grant for ferry improvements

The money will be used for scheduled infrastructure work but comes after recent damage took the vessel out of service.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will receive a $3.9 million federal Passenger Ferry Grant for infrastructure improvements to the St. Johns River Ferry.

JTA announced Tuesday it was granted the award from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to a news release, the grant will be put toward $5.6 million in work to bulkheads, catwalks, warehousing, mooring bollards and other improvements to both the Mayport Village and Fort George Island facilities in the next phase of upgrades to the ferry.

“When the JTA took over operation of the St. Johns River Ferry in 2016, we also embarked on an ambitious plan to address needed upgrades and maintenance issues that had accrued over several decades,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford Sr.

Work is scheduled to begin in the spring.  The grant will pay for about 70% of the estimated $5.6 million project cost in the fourth phase of JTA’s plan to upgrade the ferry system. 

JTA completed Phase III in January. That included upgrades to the vessel as well as operational and other safety improvements like rehabilitated bulkheads, new terminal bridges and stopping mechanisms. 

The announcement comes as JTA temporarily has removed the ferry from service after the propeller system was damaged July 25 by a submerged rope. JTA spokesman David Cawton said that after an initial inspection by the JTA and the U.S. Coast Guard, it was confirmed that the propeller shaft sustained damage and will require repairs before the ferry can return to service. 

Cawton said the repairs would take about two weeks.

The Jean Ribault is a car and passenger ferry that connects Florida A1A to Mayport Village and Fort George Island via a 0.9-mile voyage across the St. Johns River, 2.5 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. 

The ferry begins operation Monday-Friday at 6 a.m. in Mayport Village and 6:30 a.m. in Fort George Island. Service continues through 7 p.m. Service on Saturday and Sunday is 7 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. 

In a written statement Tuesday, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., said the grant will help commuters, tourists and military workforce who regularly use the ferry.

“The St. Johns River Ferry displays the multimodal transportation infrastructure that positions Northeast Florida as a logistical and tourism hub on the Eastern seaboard.” Rutherford said. “However, Jacksonville faces strong winds and extreme tides from powerful storms and hurricanes, which can cause damage and require expensive repairs.” 


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