Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crenshaw Seeking Funding for New Mayport Ferryboat; the Move Comes amid Concerns about Cuts in Local Funds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crenshaw Seeking Funding for New Mayport Ferryboat; the Move Comes amid Concerns about Cuts in Local Funds

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, is seeking federal funding for a new Mayport ferry vessel.

Crenshaw's congressional aide, David Taft, said Tuesday that Crenshaw has requested funding for a replacement vessel in a House Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill.

"I don't have a specific amount," Taft said. "There are still some questions. But it's something in Congress that he'll continue to fight for and continue to work to get some funding to replace the ferry."

The Mayport ferry service has been crossing the St. Johns River from Mayport village north to Heckscher Drive and back since 1948.

The service has two vessels to carry vehicles across the water, but usually just one is in operation.

The Blackbeard was made part of the fleet in 1956 and The Jean Ribault replaced another vessel, the Buccaneer, in 1996, according to the service's Web site, stjohnsriverferry.com/ ferryinfo.html.

The Ribault cost about $4 million when it was built about a decade ago, the Web site states.

The federal help sought by Crenshaw comes as Jacksonville leaders and supporters of the service worry local funding could be cut.

Jacksonville officials said running the ferry costs about $1.8 million a year. Fares bring in about $1.1 million, leaving a $738,000 gap that Jacksonville has been covering. And while continued funding for the ferry has already been included in the proposed 2007-08 Jacksonville budget, Mayor John Peyton's staff has told Shorelines and The Florida Times-Union that future city funding will probably end.

Maintenance on the two ships is among the most costly elements of running the service.

The Blackbeard is a standby vessel, but both ships went into dry dock at Atlantic Marine ship service in the spring of 2006 to have barnacles and other debris cleaned and have the hulls inspected as required by the Coast Guard, Beth Mangold, who is in charge of the Mayport ferry contract for the city's Administration and Finance Department, told Shorelines in October. …

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