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Biden Administration Awards $384 Million in Ferry Grants

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of the Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during a briefing about the bipartisan infrastructure law at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

Biden Administration Awards $384 Million in Ferry Grants

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1851
January 26, 2023

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced $384.4 million in federal funding to expand and improve the nation’s ferry service and accelerate the transition to zero-emission ferries and technology..

The DOT says the record amount of funding, made available through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will benefit millions of Americans – from Alaska to Michigan to Maryland – who depend on coastal waters, rivers, bays, and other bodies of water to connect to their communities.

In total, FTA is awarding 23 grants across 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Grants will fund projects including replacement of older and less efficient vessels, expanding fleets, and building new terminals and docks.

The state of Alaska has been awarded a nearly $286 million of investment in the Alaska Marine Highway, which serves remote locations throughout the state. Maine will be awarded nearly $33 million to build a hybrid-electric vessel to replace a 35-year-old vessel and also maintain and operate the Maine State Ferry Service to rural island communities. Nearly $100 million of the national grants will go toward low- and no-emission ferries, helping decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

“With these grants, we are improving and expanding ferry service in the communities that rely on waterways the most—often in more rural, remote regions—connecting people to jobs, services, and city centers while cutting climate pollution,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.  

The funding is made available through three FTA competitive grant programs (the FTA’s Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program, the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program, and the Passenger Ferry Grant Program), will boost ferry service in rural areas, modernize urban ferry systems, and lower emissions by speeding adoption of zero-emission ferries and technology.

“Today’s announcement represents a record amount of support for transit ferries in our country,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “And thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for the first time ever, we are able to provide competitive grant funds for passenger ferry service in rural areas and help ferry operators reduce their climate impact.”

Projects were selected for funding based on criteria described in the Notice of Funding of Opportunity, issued last July, which received 47 eligible applications in 16 states and one territory, totaling nearly $602 million in requests.

Some selected ferry projects include:  

  • The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, which is receiving six grants for nearly $286 million, will build passenger ferries to replace or modernize older vessels and make critical dock upgrades in several communities. The grants will improve the condition and quality of the Alaska Marine Highway System, which runs 3,500 miles and serves 35 communities, particularly for people in remote locations with high transportation costs.
  • The Maine Department of Transportation will receive $28 million through the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program to build a hybrid-electric vessel to replace a 35-year-old vessel that has exceeded its useful life. The new hybrid-electric vessel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental sustainability for the roughly 600 residents of the island of Islesboro, a rural community in upper Penobscot Bay that relies on passenger ferry service.
  • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will receive $6.6 million through the Passenger Ferry Grant Program to modernize the Hingham Ferry dock to improve safety and accessibility and ensure it stays in a state of good repair. MBTA will stabilize the ferry dock, reconstruct walkways, upgrading lighting, safety and security systems and facilitating back-up power, allowing for an increase in ferry capacity, operational flexibility, and resiliency.

The full list of grants can be found here.

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