Water Taxi Funding to Come Again to BOCC

BRADENTON — The Manatee County Vacationer Growth Council has permitted a funding suggestion of $950,000 for the development of two pontoon ferry boats for the longer term Manatee County water taxi service.

In early October, Manatee County Commissioners permitted an preliminary $700,000 for the design and construct of two pontoon boats for the county’s future water taxi service. On November 4, Government Director of the Conference and Guests Bureau Elliott Falcione sought a suggestion from the Vacationer Growth Council for the pontoons’ building funding of as much as $950,000. Falcione defined to TDC members that though prices could finally come underneath the requested quantity, approval from the BOCC will present room for any greater than anticipated prices for the development of the 2 pontoon boats. 

A Florida-based boat builder can be contracted by the county to construct the 2 50ft, 49-50 passenger pontoon vessels. The boats will present each residents and vacationers with water taxi service from the mainland to the island. A timeline for the vessels’ accomplished building is unknown, nonetheless, as a consequence of the potential of provide chain delays.  

Manatee County would personal the pontoon boats however would have the vessels managed and operated by a Clearwater-based ferry firm. Though a contract has not but been signed, Falcione said the county was “on the cusp” of an settlement with Clearwater Ferry, a ferry firm that has been doing enterprise in Clearwater since 2015. 

The county lawyer’s workplace was nonetheless engaged on draft interlocal agreements for the three cities of Bradenton, Holmes Seaside, and Anna Maria as of the November 4 TDC assembly, however Falcione mentioned these drafts have been anticipated to be accomplished within the close to future. 

Whereas a precise launch date for the water taxi service has not but been set, the county anticipates the water taxi will initially start operating on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 10:30 am- 9:30 pm. A one-way cross is projected to be $8 per grownup, with an all-day “hopper cross” operating about $10. Kids and Seniors may have lowered charges. 

Falcione advised TDC members that the county is open to the potential of operating the ferries for extra days than are at the moment deliberate, even every day, relying on demand.

The city core will present the day dock for the vessels within the metropolis of Bradenton simply east of the Inexperienced Bridge. The boats will dock every night time, on the Twin Dolphin Marina on the west aspect of the Inexperienced Bridge. The water taxis will journey from Bradenton’s downtown riverfront out to Anna Maria Island’s Metropolis Pier, then to Anna Maria’s Bridge Avenue Pier, earlier than crusing south to its final cease on the Coquina boat launch, earlier than venturing a route again alongside the identical stopping factors on its return loop to the mainland. The 2 pontoons will run concurrently. 

The county can be working with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Affiliation to survey the hospitality trade to calculate one of the simplest ways to make the most of the water taxi for the island’s hospitality and repair employees. The county intends to discover whether or not a service slot within the water taxi’s schedule devoted to delivering workers from the mainland to the island—and again—may present the advantage of decreased causeway and bridge vehicular site visitors. Falcione urged the county could even contemplate a free taxi service particularly to encourage workers to make the most of the ferries. 

The county is exploring a number of different funding sources to assist the service however has recognized tourism tax income and anticipated revenues from the county’s operation of the Coquina Seaside Market, as constant funding sources. As soon as the water taxi service has been up and operating for a few 12 months, the county may additionally doubtlessly qualify for state or federal grant cash, Falcione mentioned.

The TDC’s suggestion of “as much as” $950,000 of vacationer bed-tax cash for the development of the pontoon vessels will now go earlier than the county fee for approval.

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