TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority Board plans to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation asking that agency to proceed with a feasibility study to determine how Port Tampa Bay can keep its cruise business alive.
The height of the Sunshine Skyway is at the heart of the issue, since it is not tall enough to allow newer and larger cruise ships to sail under it to reach births in the Channelside area of Port Tampa Bay.
FDOT released a pre-feasibility study last week that outlined several options, from raising the massive suspension bridge to building a new cruise ship facility west of the bridge. The options range in price from $632 million to $2 billion.
Port Tampa Bay is poised to host about one million cruise passengers this year and the board is anxious to keep that business growing.
“This is a huge economic development opportunity,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who sits on the port board. She said the board should encourage FDOT to move forward quickly “and not waste a whole lot of time getting there.”
“Nobody is in any position to make a choice right now,” Murman said after the meeting. “That’s why they need to look at all the options. This feasibility study will delve more deeply into the economic issues.”