JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A partnership between the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will help get the St. Johns River Ferry up and running sooner than expected.
The groups completed an agreement that will allow federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Grant Funds to be used for the emergency dry docking and repairs of the ferry, according to a news release from Nancy Rubin, spokesperson for JaxPort.
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Rubin said they were able to complete the agreement in an unprecedented 48-hour period. The agreement required the approval of both federal and state grant administrators. Those administrators had to waive normal bidding procedures.
Had the normal process been followed, Rubin said the ferry's return would have been delayed several weeks in addition to adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of the repairs.
The United States Coast Guard ordered the ferry to dry dock Monday, September 17. The ship was taken to dry dock to repair stress fractures found in the ferry's hull. Repair work began Thursday, September 20. Once the hull is repaired, the ferry will return to operation.
Paul Anderson, CEO for JaxPort, said, "This expedited agreement reflects the effective partnership between our local, state and federal agencies. We all share the goal of getting the ferry service back online for the citizens who depend on it daily. With that as our mutual motivation and with the incredible responsiveness of the FDOT and FHWA leadership, we will be getting that done.
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Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who is also Chairman of the St. Johns River Ferry Commission, said, "I applaud this well-coordinated effort to perform the necessary repairs on the ferry in the fastest way possible and with the shortest possible disruption to the ridership. This is the type of intra-governmental cooperation our citizens both expect and deserve."
The St. Johns River Ferry, operated by the Jacksonville Port Authority since 2007, will have its ownership transferred to the City of Jacksonville's St. Johns River Ferry Commission October 1, 2012.
First Coast News