US rural ferry operations to receive over US$220 million in grant funding

Photo: Washington State Ferries

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has confirmed the award of grants totalling US$220.2 million from the government’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernise 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), and upgrading shore infrastructure to support low-emission ferry service.

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, modernise urban ferry systems, and lower emissions by facilitating the adoption of low- and zero-emission technology.

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

FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program supports capital projects to establish new ferry service and repair and modernise ferry vessels, terminals, and facilities in urban areas. FTA is awarding US$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 US$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 US$15.9 million to retrofit two of their 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 US$131.3 million to invest in the Alaska Marine Highway that serves remote locations throughout the state, including nearly US$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 City of New York Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) will receive nearly US$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.

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