(TBO.com) - Federal dollars are flowing south to buoy a proposed water ferry between Gibsonton and MacDill Air Force Base meant to alleviate highway congestion.

The Tampa Bay area will receive $4.8 million from the Federal Transit Administration to use for brick and mortar work on the ferry service, tentatively scheduled to be completed in 2016. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, applied for the federal money and must sign off on the design and engineering for the ferry project.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, announced the grant in a press release on Monday. The money comes from a discretionary grant program specifically for passenger ferries, said Castor’s press secretary, Marcia Mejia.

Tampa’s long-term economic future will significantly benefit if we develop options for people to travel to work and home,” Castor said in her press release. “Investing in our infrastructure is key to growing jobs in our community and remaining competitive.”

“That’s really big news. That is one-sixth of the funds available for this type of program in the entire country,” said Attorney Ed Turanchik, a former Hillsborough County commissioner representing HMS Ferries and South Swell Development Group in its effort to partner with the county on this project. He said Congress had previously earmarked $475,000 toward the project and HMS, one of the private partners in this public-private venture, has pledged $12 million to cover the first three years in operational costs.

In all, the ferry project is expected to cost $22 million to $23 million, Turanchik said. He estimates that the ferry operation will take 62,081 miles a day off of local highways and save commuters time on trips to and from work.

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