FTA Offering $316M to Support Passenger Ferry Services

The Federal Transit Administration is making $316 million in funding available to support and modernize passenger ferry service in communities nationwide.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

The notice of funding opportunity issued by the FTA divides that fiscal year 2024 money across three separate programs:

  • Roughly $52 million will be available through the Passenger Ferry Program, which supports capital projects aimed at buying, replacing, or modernizing passenger ferries, terminals, and related equipment.
  • Some $49 million will be available through the Electric or Low Emitting Ferry Program, which bolsters efforts to buy ferry vessels that reduce emissions by using alternative fuels or on-board energy storage systems.
  • Finally, $216 million will be available through the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program, which supports efforts to initiate or expand ferry services in rural areas; funding that encompasses both capital, planning, and operating costs.

“Passenger ferries provide critical and cost-effective travel for people throughout the United States, but many ferry agencies are not able to maintain all of their vessels in a state of good repair and make necessary investments in safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool in a statement.

FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. Photo by FTA.

“[We are] pleased to provide federal support to help modernize and expand how people travel by water while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing equity by making transit available to more people, and creating good-paying jobs,” she added.

FTA noted that, across the country, there are approximately three million ferry riders each month who use that waterborne transport service to get to work, school, healthcare appointments, and more. 

In December 2023, FTA issued 13 grants totaling $220.2 million to help modernize ferry systems in eight states and the territory of American Samoa – with state departments of transportation receiving five of those grants:

  • Alaska received $131.3 million to invest in the Alaska Marine Highway network, with nearly $92.8 million going to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to build a new ferry to replace a nearly 60-year-old vessel; a new ferry that will feature a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system.
  • The Ferries Division of the Washington State Department of Transportation received $4.8 million to help refurbish six ferry vessels; extending the useful life of those vessels.
  • The Ferry Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation received $400,000 to conduct a feasibility study regarding the construction of a new depot maintenance facility at its Cherry Branch Ferry Terminal.
  • The Michigan Department of Transportation, on behalf of the Beaver Island Transportation Authority or BITA, received $10 million to build a passenger ferry and repair the Beaver Island dock. BITA, which provides ferry service and freight transportation between the town of Charlevoix, MI, and Beaver Island 32 miles away, also planned to examine the potential for “green” propulsion systems to power the new vessel and evaluate the dock infrastructure to accommodate it.
  • The Maine Department of Transportation received $7.1 million to modernize two rural ferry terminals originally built in 1959. This project will provide the infrastructure needed to support the safe and efficient operation of a new hybrid electric vessel scheduled for delivery in 2027.
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