$316 million funding opportunity opens for modernizing passenger ferry service

April 18, 2024

The U.S. Department of Transportation is making $316 million available to modernize passenger ferry service across the nation through three new grant opportunities.

A notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) issued by the Federal Transit Administration outlines how the funding will flow toward expanding ferry access in rural areas, investing in ferries that run on low-emission fuels, and improving urban ferry system efficiency.

The investment, made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, is an increase from $220 million that flowed into the U.S. ferry system in 2023. Applications for the latest round of funding are due by June 17.

“For many Americans in many different parts of the country, ferries are the best and sometimes only way to get where they need to go,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “We’re pleased to make $316 million available to help communities modernize their ferry service,” Buttigieg said, adding that the investment would provide “better, easier, more reliable options.”

About 3 million Americans depend on ferry transit systems every month. The two largest systems are in the state of Washington connecting Seattle and communities throughout the Puget Sound region, and in New York City connecting Manhattan with Staten Island. Each of these systems serves more than 20 million passengers each year. Ferry systems with more than 1 million annual passengers can be found in the San Francisco Bay Area, Maine, Rhode Island and crossing the Delaware Bay between Delaware and New Jersey.

With $216 million, the largest share of funding will go to service in rural areas through the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program. Qualifying ferry lines must serve two or more rural areas located at least 50 miles apart. For ferries serving destinations that are closer together, they may still be eligible for rural community funding only if they are not eligible for other ferry grant programs.

The Passenger Ferry Program will have $51 million to give out for ferry systems serving urban areas. The funding can be used to purchase, replace, or repair passenger ferries, terminals and supporting equipment and facilities. In 2023, the state of Washington used $4.8 million from this program to repair six ferries that were built more than 40 years ago.

Another $49 million is aimed at lowering the climate pollution from passenger ferries through the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program. Through this program, transit authorities can receive funding to buy new electric or low-emissions ferries, or convert ferries in their existing fleet to run on electricity or alternate fuel. They can also use the funds to buy charging infrastructure or other facilities necessary to ensure the new or improved ferries can run efficiently.

“FTA is 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,” said Veronica Vanterpool, acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Photo by InSapphoWeTrust

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