Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Cruise terminal: Look at Commodore Point

In a letter to the editor in the TU, the writer (a retired city planner) suggests a different location for the cruise terminal – Commodore Point.  The writer asks several questions and so we are posting his letter here in the hopes that Jeff Price from Jaxport will post answers that can be shared with all.

One only has to visit San Diego, Seattle or Vancouver to experience the benefits that cruise terminals can have on downtown areas.

 Cruises from those cities begin and end in the downtown areas of those cities.

 They add charm and offer new dimensions of excitement and activity, while complementing the nearby businesses.

Jacksonville may have a potential site for its cruise port that would lend many of these qualities to its downtown.

Commodore Point is a string of unrelated riverside developments, and the apparent end of the pleasant downtown riverfront. 

Just north, lies the expansive Talleyrand cargo port facility, with its 38 feet of depth at dockside.

Locating the cruise terminal in this area could fit in with the existing facilities, and complement the tourism potential of the nearby sports complex.

Its location would enhance Jacksonville’s downtown and would not likely be opposed by any of its neighbors.

As during the 2005 Super Bowl, additional cruise ships could be periodically brought in to uniquely augment downtown hotel accommodations during major events.

This location would be at the locus of several transportation corridors and is easily accessed by the public transportation that serves the sports complex.

The principal limiting factor seems to be not enough clearance beneath the Dames Point Bridge to permit access for the largest ships.

Has a study been done of suitable sites in this area and of the effect of limiting the largest ships from the site?

Has a cost/benefit study been done of the engineering feasibility of modifying or rebuilding the bridge to allow the additional clearance for the largest cruise liners?

Even with an extreme cost of rebuilding the bridge, it is possible that the advantages of the central location could prove less expensive than acquiring waterfront property in Mayport, building suitable access to it, disrupting the local community that opposes it and adding long lines of heavy automobile traffic snaking through 20 miles of residential areas.

Surely, this beautiful city deserves another look at this alternative before forging ahead with plans for a controversial Mayport terminal.

A downtown location could be a terrific asset to Jacksonville, and Mayport certainly could be better served by a more suitable village waterfront development, and/or as a quaint tourist destination, as well.


retired city planner, Orange Park


Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , ,

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. jaxport says:

    Commodore Point, the area east and south of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, consists of privately owned property, which includes a facility called North Florida Shipyards, a dry dock and ship repair operation. Rather than purchase additional property, JAXPORT currently owns about 8 acres in Mayport, so the port does not need to acquire additional land to build a single berth/single terminal at Mayport.

    However, regarding Mr. Brey’s letter, there are a few navigational issues as well. To get to Commodore Point, not only would cruise ships have to sail underneath the power lines crossing the river at Blount Island, as well as the Dames Point Bridge, they’d also have to pass underneath the Matthews Bridge, which only affords about 152 feet of clearance. There are also some tricksy currents right around the Matthews Bridge, so that would complicate a docking operation in the immediate vicinity of the bridge (at the old Ford Motor plant location, for example). In addition, getting to the south part of Commodore Point also means sailing underneath the Hart Bridge, which has about 135 feet of air draft, further limiting the size of ships.

    Has a study been done of suitable sites in this area and of the effect of limiting the largest ships from the site?

    In short, yes. Since 80 percent of cruise ships in the Big 3 fleet are simply too tall to fit underneath the Dames Point Bridge/power lines, and smaller ships continue to be phased out of service, viable locations for a permanent cruise facility lie to the east of the bridge/power lines. Out of those possibilities, Mayport appears to be the last, best option. (My previous comments in another post talk about the 2004 Han Padron study, cruise industry trends, what already happened to small ships sailing here, etc. — http://tinyurl.com/4d9x9s

    Has a cost/benefit study been done of the engineering feasibility of modifying or rebuilding the bridge to allow the additional clearance for the largest cruise liners?

    While I don’t have the findings at my fingertips, JAXPORT consulted with both the JTA and the JEA on modifying the bridge and/or power lines. From what I recall in 2004, JTA said it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to modify or build a new Dames Point Bridge; and JEA said it would cost $30 million + to raise the power lines, and more to bury them. When you add up the dollars to those projects, even before counting the costs of building a new cruise terminal, it’s just not feasible for JAXPORT to fund either, even in the best of economic times.

    In an ideal world, I agree with Mr. Brey that cruises docked downtown would be fantastic for cruisers and for contributing to a vibrant downtown. But, it’s simply not possible with the current structures in place and given the current funding climate.

  2. g8rluvr says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for letting us impose on you. We (and our readers) appreciate your participation on our site.

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