U.S. awards $220 million to modernize ferry systems

(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Thursday announced grants totaling $220.2 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernize the nation’s ferry systems.

The program focuses in part on expanding ferry service in rural communities, helping communities acquire modern ferry boats (including electric boats that reduce carbon pollution), and upgrading shore infrastructure to support high-quality, low-emission ferry service.

“For many communities around the U.S., ferries are an important way to access jobs, medical care, and vital goods and services — like in communities I visited this summer in Alaska, Wisconsin and Washington state,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “With these grants, from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we will be able to connect more people to the opportunities and resources they need to thrive even when their main route is a waterway rather than a road.”

Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) photo

In total, the FTA is awarding 13 grants in eight states and the territory of American Samoa. Federal funding will support projects such as replacing old vessels, expanding fleets, and building new terminals and docks.

The funding, made available through two FTA competitive grant programs, will boost ferry service in rural areas, modernize urban ferry systems, and lower emissions by speeding the adoption of low- and zero-emission technology.

The FTA’s Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program provides competitive funding to states for ferry service in rural areas. On Thursday, the FTA said it is awarding approximately $170 million to six projects in four states and the territory of American Samoa.

The FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program supports capital projects to establish new ferry service and repair and modernize ferry vessels, terminals and facilities in urban areas. On Thursday, the agency said it is is awarding $50.1 million to seven projects in four states.

Selected fiscal year 2023 ferry projects include:

• The American Samoa Department of Public Works will receive $21.2 million to acquire two low-emission vessels that will operate from Tutuila to the islands of Manu’a. This project will expand service, enhance reliability, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Agency (WETA) will receive $15.9 million to retrofit two of its existing ferry floats in the cities of Alameda and San Francisco by installing battery energy storage systems to improve reliability and air quality.

• The state of Alaska will receive nearly $131.3 million to invest in the Alaska Marine Highway that serves remote locations throughout the state, including nearly $92.8 million to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to build a new ferry to replace a nearly 60-year-old vessel. The new ferry will feature a diesel-electric propulsion system and will serve rural southwest Alaska with more reliable service and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

• The New York City Department of Transportation will receive nearly $7.5 million to build shoreside terminal infrastructure to enable rapid charging for vessels serving Governors Island, which is only accessible by ferry service. The new charging system will reduce emissions, decrease maintenance costs and improve reliability for riders.

The FTA received 28 eligible project proposals in 12 states and the territory of American Samoa, totaling nearly $418 million in requests. For a complete list of projects funded, click here.

– Federal Transit Administration

By Professional Mariner Staff