FTA grants $220 million to help modernize ferry systems

December 4, 2023

The Beaver Island Transportation Authority (BITA) in Michigan designed a new ferry in 2012 to replace an aging 60-year-old vessel. However, the agency did not have the funds to purchase the passenger ship until this year.

The state received two federal grants in 2023 totaling $10.63 million to purchase a new passenger ferry and repair the dock on Beaver Island, which is the largest island in Lake Michigan and the most remote inhabited.

“Water transportation is essential for the residents and economy, carrying passengers, vehicles and freight to and from the island,” BITA Executive Director Mary Cook said in a news release.

Michigan is one of eight states receiving grants from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) through the Ferry Service for Rural Communities and Passenger Ferry Grant programs. Funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which has allocated more than $604 million to support ferry service nationwide and help agencies switch to zero-emissions fleets.

The latest grants announced Nov. 30 total $220.2 million and will fund 13 modernization projects in eight states and American Samoa. The grants will cover 80% of a project, with the local entity providing the remaining 20%.

In January, the FTA awarded over $384 million for 23 projects, also including Beaver Island, to help transportation agencies replace aging ferries and upgrade infrastructure for more reliable service.

Other states and territories receiving funding from the latest round include:

  • American Samoa: $21.25 million for two low-emission ferries to expand service between two islands and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • California: $21.9 million to replace one ferry and retrofit two others with battery energy storage systems as well as upgrade infrastructure near the Golden Gate Bridge and near downtown San Francisco.
  • Maine: $7.1 million to modernize two rural terminals to handle a new hybrid electric ferry scheduled to arrive in 2027 and expand the dock.
  • New Jersey: nearly $13 million to convert two diesel-powered vessels to battery electric and build a new floating dock for a passenger ferry facility in South Amboy.
  • New York: $10.48 million for rehabilitating the Staten Island ferry storage facility and building charging equipment for future electric vessels on Governors Island.
  • North Carolina: $400,000 to study building a larger maintenance facility at the Cherry Branch Terminal.
  • Washington: $4.8 million to refurbish six ferries and extend vessel life.

Alaska is another state benefiting from the FTA’s ferry grant programs. In 2023, the state will have received eight grants totaling over $416 million to upgrade vessels and provide more reliable service to the 30 communities that rely on the state’s ferry system.

“I grew up using the ferry system to get around Southeast, and I know how important the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is to so many Alaskan families,” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a news release. “By supporting operations across the state and replacing the M/V Tustumena serving Southwest Alaska, we are helping connect coastal communities across the state.”

The state plans to use the funds to improve operations on the AMHS and add service in remote areas. About $92.8 million will help the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, which manages the AMHS, to replace the 60-year-old M/V Tustumena ferry with a diesel-electric propulsion vessel.

Funds from the grants announced in January will help the state modernize four ferries and provide year-round service to rural coastal communities.

“The vast majority of communities in Alaska have no connection to the road system, making ports and ferries as essential as roads and highways, and a critical area of responsibility for the federal government,” U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a news release.

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. can provide information on contract opportunities, plus existing and future government funding. For more information, contact research@spartnerships.com.

Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Transportation

Don't Miss

Massive support, funding now available to improve supply-chain networks

New opportunities for multimodal freight, rail, and port projects are
A hospital hallway.

New hospitals greenlit for Amarillo, Wichita Falls

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is searching