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JTA to Take Over Ferry

As Passenger Transport went to press, the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) was preparing to  commemorate its acquisition of the St. Johns River Ferry with an April 16 event featuring free ferry rides, live music, games, face painting, balloon art and food, co-sponsored by the city of Jacksonville, the St. Johns River Ferry Commission and Friends of the Ferry.

The JTA Board of Directors and the Jacksonville City Council recently approved an agreement to transfer ownership of the St. Johns River Ferry from the ferry commission to the JTA, which also operates the ferry as part of the agreement.

“It is a great day for the JTA and the St. Johns River Ferry,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “JTA is  excited to utilize its transportation expertise to make the ferry an important part of a world-class regional transportation system. The St. Johns River Ferry is an iconic landmark in Northeast Florida. The ferry also has a significant economic impact and improves the quality of life in this community. JTA is pleased to be able to ensure it remains an integral part of the East Coast Greenway [a hiking and biking trail that runs from Canada to Key West, FL] and the National Park Service.”

The St. Johns River Ferry is a car and passenger ferry that connects the north and south ends of Florida State Road A1A and operates seven days a week. The 0.9-mile voyage crosses the St. Johns River 2.5 miles inland of the river’s mouth and departs every half hour.

Also, FTA has awarded a $6 million Passenger Ferry Grant to JTA and the St. Johns River Ferry Commission to fund the second phase of the ferry’s slip walls replacement and capital improvement project. The first phase, currently under construction, was funded through a previous $3.9 million federal grant and $1 million state match.

The ferry slips have had eight major upgrades or repairs since the original construction was completed in 1949, most recently in 1996. The structural steel elements are continuously exposed to the corrosive marine environment and have reached the end of their useful life.

JTA and the city of Jacksonville are paying the local match for the $7.5 million project, which will improve the state of repair, increase reliability of the service by using a lower-maintenance design and lower costs and service interruptions for repairs. At the completion of the project, the slip walls system will be completely renovated, extending their useful life by 30 years.
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