Pensacola Bay Ferry System
The Pensacola Bay Ferry System would operate in Pensacola Bay, between the City of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens located at the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island. The Pensacola Bay ferry system is expected to be operational in the spring of 2017.
The Pensacola Bay ferry service will provide an alternative means of visitor access to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and Fort Pickens. The ferry will also allow visitors to access the park if the road to Fort Pickens is made impassable by storms or other unfavorable conditions. Additionally, the ferry will allow visitors on Pensacola Beach to easily access downtown Pensacola and all the amenities offered for tourists and citizens alike. The Park Service estimates that over 65,000 passengers annually will take advantage of the ferry system. Visitors on board the ferries will be able to sight-sea and enjoy an interpretation experience during the 35-45 minute boat ride to each landing location.
The City of Pensacola ferry site land-side improvements repurposes the existing green space area located directly north of the North Basin on Commendencia Slip. It will be the site of the ferry terminal with ticketing, passenger queuing, restrooms, and gateway information. Other land-side program elements essential to the visitor experience include such things as way-finding signs, orientation areas, concession sales, sheltered passenger waiting areas with trash receptacles, lighting, vehicle parking, and passenger drop-off areas.The two passenger ferries, operated by a private company under the direction of the National Park Service, are scheduled to operate seasonally from mid-March through the end of October: 1) daily from mid-May through mid-August , and 2) on weekends from mid-March through mid-May and from mid-August through the end of October. Ferry operations are expected to be reduced during the off-peak winter season. To support the ferry system, passenger queuing areas – one with a ticketing facility and floating docks will be constructed at the Commendencia Slip area in the City of Pensacola and at Quietwater Beach on Pensacola Beach.
The National Park Service received approximately $4,000,000 in Deepwater Horizon Federal early restoration funds in order to purchase the two ferries which are scheduled for delivery in 2017.
Port Pensacola received approximately $2,000,000 in Federal Lands Access Program funding from the US Department of Transportation to construct the Ferry landing improvements at Commendencia Slip. Additionally, the City is utilizing FDOT's Local Agency Program for all procurement and program management activities.
The two 75 ft / 150 passenger-only catamaran ferries to be supplied by the National Park Service are under construction with delivery occurring in early 2017. The City of Pensacola is currently designing and engineering the improvements that will be required to support the ferry service at Commendencia Slip – the ferry service location for downtown Pensacola.
The waterside floating docks and other improvements are currently out for bid as of November 2016 with construction expected to start in late January 2017. Additionally, Escambia County is designing and engineering modifications to the Quietwater Pier at Pensacola Beach in support of the ferry service.
Construction of the docks at Commendencia Slip is scheduled for completion May 2017 to coincide with the start of ferry service. Final architectural and engineering plans for the landside ticketing and ferry operations facility are underway so that the construction phase of the landside can begin in the spring of 2017. Temporary ferry operations and ticketing facilities will be located in the Commendencia Slip area while the landside construction is underway.
The National Park Service is currently in the process of selecting the ferry concessionaire that will operate the ferry service with selection expected early 2017. The selected concessionaire will lease the facility at Commendencia Slip and be responsible for all ferry operations.
The amount of Federal funding received to construct the Ferry Landing at the City of Pensacola