MAYPORT, Fla. -- The St. Johns River Ferry celebrated its return to service with free rides on Sunday, after a "soft re-opening" on Saturday. Local political leaders celebrating the ferry's return are thinking about how to secure future funding for the ferry.
The St. Johns River Ferry was closed for more than a month of repair and testing. Rider Nicol Hofflman depends on the ferry to get to work six days a week. "I thought I was actually going to have to go find another job, to be honest" Bushnell said, adding that it is much faster to take the ferry than to drive.
Funding the ferry is a persistent issue. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and council members say they are still working on plans to pay for the ferry in the long term. "The key is the public/private partnership," Brown said. "We all have to work together to make sure that its sufficient, the key is getting the private sector to invest in it, getting the grants and funding to do it."
City Council President Bill Gulliford wants to consider "extending the gas tax, because the JTA, under my proposal, will operate the ferry for the next 20 years as a part of our agreement."
Riders like Kathy Bushnell, who has depended on the ferry since 1965, say they would be willing to shell out more to secure the ferry's future.
"I think the most important part is that it's back and it needs to stay back," Bushnell said.