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Ferry planned to connect downtown Tampa & St. Pete

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Investment Group Develops Plans For Cross-Bay Ferry Service

TAMPA - An entrepreneur is floating plans for a high-speed ferry service to link downtown Tampa with downtown St. Petersburg, Tierra Verde, Fort DeSoto Park and Anna Maria Island.

Scott Chapman, president of Gulf Coast Insurance Services, said he and other investors hope to launch the service in early 2006, catering to commuters and tourists.

Planning is still in the early stage, Chapman said. The investment group is lining up corporate sponsors, finding dock sites, gauging interest from area officials, and talking to boat builders. Chapman said he's looking at having a 60-passenger catamaran built. Fares haven't been determined.

``I think the momentum and the vision and the timing are all poised for success,'' Chapman said.

He said he's aware that previous proposals for ferry service in the Tampa Bay area have failed, but he believes that recent developments in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, including residential and retail growth in Tampa's Channel District, proves the area is ready.

A high-speed catamaran ferry could cross the Bay in 30 minutes, Chapman said.

Demand for commuter ferry service in many cities died out. But commuter ferries operate in a handful of cities, such as Seattle and New York.

Ferries for tourists thrive in a number of places across the country, such as Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, and Catalina Island near Los Angeles.

Reporter Dave Simanoff can be reached at (813) 259-7762.

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