JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has officially taken over operation of the St. Johns River Ferry.
A signing ceremony took place Wednesday afternoon.
A $1.8 million overhaul was just done on the ship. It included maintenance to both engines and a new paint job.
The deck has been re-striped from five lanes to four lanes, so there's more space between cars.
The JTA Board of Directors and the Jacksonville City Council approved the transfer of ownership of the St. Johns River Ferry from the city's St. Johns River Ferry Commission to the JTA.
The car and passenger ferry connects the north and south ends of Florida State Road A1A in Duval County, linking Mayport Village and Fort George Island. The 0.9-mile ferry across the St. Johns River departs every half-hour. A ferry has operated on the route since 1874.
The alternate driving route using the Dames Point Bridge requires 28 miles to get across the river at the same point.
The Florida Department of Transportation operated the service until its budget was eliminated by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007. The keep the service going, the city of Jacksonville took over the service, but was losing money -- up to $1 million one year.
The Jacksonville Port Authority took over operation of the ferry and lost a half million dollars each year, but used port revenue, not tax money, to underwrite the operation. The JPA cut costs and sold the Blackbeard, the backup ferry, which meant that whenever the Jean Ribault has problems, service is suspended. Most recently, service was interrupted in January and early February for maintenance and a U.S. Coast Guard inspection.
As part of the agreement, the JTA will own and operate the ferry, and work to enhance the ferry with potential options, such as mobile ticketing and enriching the experience building upon the existing relationship with the National Park Service.