TAMPA, Fla. — In Manatee County, both the number of residents and tourists is on the rise, and that combination impacts traffic, particularly the east-west routes to and from the beaches.
Officials are hoping a new water taxi service could soon help alleviate that congestion.
People are hard at work at Trident Pontoons in Tavares, putting their final touches on the two ferry boats that will soon transport people to and from downtown Bradenton to Manatee County beaches
Victoria Perkins says, to her, welding is a form of art.
“I love the satisfaction I get when I finish something,” she said.
She's been welding parts for pontoon boats for years.
"It feels great," she said. "I love to weld, it makes me happy. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Perkins says it's the peaceful feeling of being out on a boat that she loves.
“I just love boats," she saiod. "I love being out on the water, that’s how I spend my weekends."
But before tranquility on the water, she’s focused on quality construction.
“I normally do the rails the bathrooms and the fuel tank covers,” she said.
For the past four months, her responsibility has been welding the side rails that will go on the two 50-foot pontoon ferries being sent to Manatee County.
“They bolt it in to make sure its nice and secure,” she said.
The water taxi service was approved by Manatee County commissioners and will be paid for through the tourist development tax.
They say the goal is to alleviate traffic between the mainland and the barrier islands.
The boats, which will seat up to 49 passengers, will travel between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island.
“I think the water ferry service is a big step forward,” Elliot Falcione said.
Falcione, with the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, wants to get people out of their cars and see them utilize water transportation.
“We have some of the biggest shorelines you’ll see on the west coast of Florida and for it to really work we need about 30% of our residents use this service,” he said.
Workers like Victoria share the same vision as Manatee County officials aim to give people an enjoyable experience on the water.
“If can give people the peace that I feel out on the water, if they can feel that too, then I'm happy,” she said.
The ferries are expected to be here in June and are expected to begin transportation services in July.
They will operate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. A one-way trip will cost $8 per person while an all-day pass will run $10.