Long-anticipated ferry service between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens is set to begin next spring, and work is about to get underway on the new downtown ferry landing.
City council members on Thursday voted to vacate a small section of Commendencia Street to make way for the ferry landing and terminal, which will be located along the waterfront between Plaza de Luna and the Port of Pensacola.
“We are proud to be bringing this ferry service to the community,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. “Investing in exciting amenities such as a ferry service is essential in serving the community where we live and work. This will be another mode of transportation and a way for us as a community to get out on the water and enjoy what makes Pensacola and the surrounding areas such a first class region.”
Construction on the $3.3 million project is expected to begin within the next few weeks, with the waterside docks being fabricated offsite and then installed in Commendencia Slip. City officials hope to bid out the contract for construction of the terminal building in August, with construction set to begin in October. The ferry terminal was designed by Bullock Tice Associates of Pensacola, while civil engineer ATKINS handled the site work and waterside components of the project.
Managed by the National Park Service, the ferry system will include two ferries running between downtown Pensacola, the Quietwater Beach/Boardwalk area on Pensacola Beach, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Fort Pickens. One ferry will run a clockwise route between the three stops, while the other will run in the opposite direction.
The two 150-seat catamarans that will be used for the ferry service — named Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch by local fourth grade students — arrived in Pensacola in April. However, delays in landside construction and in bidding out the contract for a ferry operator have pushed the service’s opening back to next spring. The ferries are currently dry-docked at the Port of Pensacola.
The ferry system will operate from March 15 through October 31 each year, with daily service from May 15 through August 15, and weekend-only service from March 15 through May 14 and August 16 through October 31. Each of the system’s three landings will have a minimum of six arrivals and six departures each day.
Built by Washington-based All-American Marine, the ferries feature a climate-controlled enclosed main deck and a shaded upper deck for observation, and will be equipped with a snack bar for food and beverage service, a well as restrooms, passenger storage, flat screen TVs and a sound system for on-board interpretation by NPS rangers. The boats will be fully accessible, meeting all ADA standards, and will have bike racks for those wishing to explore Fort Pickens or Santa Rosa Island by bicycle.
Ticket prices for the ferry haven’t yet been released, but officials said last year that prices would likely to be in the $16 to $22 range for adults and around $12 for children, with tickets including “hop on, hop off” privileges throughout the day as well as admission to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Discounted tickets will be offered for active military and seniors, and three-day passes will also be available in addition to daily tickets. Children under the age of 3 will ride the ferry for free.