U.S. to Provide $220 Million in Grants to Modernize Ferry Service

federal grants ferries
Alaska's Marine Highway ferries received large grants earlier this year for modernization (AMHS)

Published May 18, 2023 4:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it will be making an additional $220 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law available to support or modernize passenger ferry service. The agency is publishing the Notice of Funding Opportunity for two grant programs which will be accepting through mid-July applications from ferries in rural and urban communities. 

"Passenger ferries provide critical and cost-effective travel for people throughout the United States, but they currently face a backlog of state of good repair and safety investments," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "This funding will modernize and expand transit systems, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and advance equity by making transit available to more people while maintaining and creating good-paying jobs."

This year’s grants include the Passenger Ferry Program, which supports capital projects to buy, replace, or modernize passenger ferries, terminals, and related equipment. For Fiscal Year 2023, $50.1 million is available, of which $5 million is set aside specifically for low- or zero-emission ferries and related facilities/equipment.

The second program, the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program, is a competitive grant program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which provides funding to ensure essential ferry service in rural communities. The funding supports capital, planning, and operating assistance to support or expand ferry services in rural areas. For FY 2023, $170 million is available.

Announcing the new grants, they emphasized the important role ferries can play in America’s transportation. Across the country, DOT estimates there are approximately three million ferry riders each month.

"For many Americans, ferries are the best way get to work, go to school, or reach a hospital, particularly in island communities and Alaska Native villages," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "Everyone ought to have access to affordable, reliable transportation options, and thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are taking an important step to improve ferry service across the country."

The new grants are a continuation of the federal government’s support of local ferry systems. Earlier this year, FTA announced $384.4 million in project selections through its Ferry Grant Programs, with nearly $100 million in funding going toward its third Ferry Program, the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program, which is designed to help decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. See the full list of grants here. Last year, the FTA made nearly $300 million available in three grant programs. Past grants have helped transit authorities upgrade ferry service across the country, from Alaska to Maine, to Georgia and California.