Next year the currently closed St. Johns River Ferry will receive another multi-million dollar upgrade, thanks in large part to a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The ferry has been shut down since July 25, when a submerged rope damaged the ferry’s propeller system. On July 30, JTA estimated the propeller repairs would take approximately two weeks. JTA spokesman David Cawton said on Tuesday that work "continues to progress quicker than expected."
The grant money announced Tuesday will go toward the next phase of upgrades to the ferry; which will include work on bulkheads, catwalks, warehousing, mooring bollards and other improvements to both the Mayport Village and Fort George Island sides of the ferry system.
JTA said Tuesday the new grant will cover about 70% of the estimated $5.6 million project cost, with work scheduled to begin in the spring.
"When the JTA took over operation of the St. Johns River Ferry in 2016, we also embarked on an ambitious plan to address needed upgrades and maintenance issues that had accrued over several decades," said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. said in an emailed statement to WJCT News.
The latest round of funding comes on the heels of a 2018 federal grant worth $3.35 million that went toward upgrades and maintenance to the ferry slips, the vessel and the ferry terminal.
Jacksonville area Republican Congressman John Rutherford said the latest grant demonstrates the government’s confidence in Jacksonville’s infrastructure development.
"The St. Johns River Ferry displays the multimodal transportation infrastructure that positions Northeast Florida as a logistical and tourism hub on the Eastern Seaboard. However, Jacksonville faces strong winds and extreme tides from powerful storms and hurricanes, which can cause damage and require expensive repairs," said Rutherford, adding that was a primary reason he urged the Federal Transit Administration to approve the grant.
More than 263,000 people have ridden the ferry since January, according to JTA. While the ferry is out of service, regular commuters face an approximately 28-mile bypass, with the closest river crossing being the Dames Point Bridge.