Ship comes in for ferry terminal funding

South San Francisco and Redwood City have secured $15 million apiece to build ferry terminals, but both will need to find more money before commuter-ferry service can set sail.

The funds come from Measure A, the one-eighth-cent sales tax renewed by voters in 2006 to pay for transportation improvements in San Mateo County. Theoriginal Measure A was scheduled to expire in 2008; the new one is designed to raise roughly $16 million per year for 25 years.

For South San Francisco, slated to begin building its terminal this year, $15 million will pay for the majority of the facility — but not for the portion that will float on the Bay, which will cost another $5 million, said Steve Castleberry, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority.

“We can proceed with the majority of construction, but we’ll need [that piece] for the terminal to be operational,” said Castleberry, adding that funding that piece could delay the projected opening date in late 2008. “It’s hard to come up with $5 million in that short an amount of time.”

Meanwhile, Redwood City — whose City Council formally adopted the agreement Monday to split the Measure A funds with South San Francisco — is hunting for $300,000 to $500,000 to embark on an environmental study of its terminal project.

It will cost roughly $15 million for Redwood City to build its terminal at the Port of Redwood City, but the city will also need another $9 million to $10 million per ferry and other funds to operate the service, Port Director Mike Giari said.

That money could come from California’s Proposition 1B infrastructure bond, which provides funding for emergency transportation, Giari said.

“Our cities are working together on lobbying for money for water transit,” said Redwood City Councilwoman Diane Howard, a major booster of ferry service on the Peninsula. “We’ve been writing letters, asking for representation, those kinds of things.”

Redwood City is hoping to take its cues from the launch of South San Francisco’s service, which would provide commuter service to and from the East Bay, Howard said. However, if commuters on that corridor don’t take to the Bay, the ferries could provide north-south service instead, Castleberry said.

“We’ll learn from them which routes are successful and which ones aren’t, and from the fares they charge,” Howard said. “But if South San Francisco doesn’t get off the ground, then Redwood City wouldn’t. We need both of them to be successful.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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