US DOT Will Provide $300M in Grants for New and Low-Emission Ferries

federal funding for ferry projects
The funding seeks to accelerate new zero-emission ferries such as the Sea Change project for the first hydrogen-fueled ferry (SWITCH Maritime)

Published Jul 8, 2022 1:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the latest part of the broad investments into America’s infrastructure, the Biden Administration announced plans to make nearly $300 million available to improve and expand ferry service in communities across the country, as well as accelerate the transition to zero-emission transportation. Calling the new imitative a historic level of funding for the ferry industry, the Federal Transit Administration will launch two new competitive grant programs dedicated to ferries as well as funding a third program that supports a broad range of ferry-related projects.

"Ferry service can be as important to everyday life as a highway or railway for many people across the country, whether in a small Alaskan community or a large metropolitan area," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "Thanks to the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this historic funding will bring ferry service to more Americans and make it safer and cleaner through modern, electric ferries."

The grant programs will be used to boost access to rural ferry service, bolster existing and new urban service, and lower emissions across all services by speeding the adoption of zero-emission ferry technologies. The largest portion of the grants will go for rural ferry services and can be used for the construction of new vessels which indirectly also supports America’s shipbuilding industry.

The government is launching a new program that provides competitive funding to states to ensure basic essential ferry service is provided to rural areas. They are marking $209 million available in FTA's Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program. The grants can be used by states and territories for capital, operating, and planning expenses for ferry service to rural areas.  

A second new program is being established that provides competitive funding for electric or low-emitting ferries and associated infrastructure that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using alternative fuels or onboard energy storage systems. A total of $49 million will be available for the purchase of electric or low-emitting ferries, as well as for the electrification or other efforts for the reduction of emissions from existing ferries. The grants will also be available for charging infrastructure or other fueling infrastructure to reduce emissions or produce zero onboard emissions under normal operation.

A total of $36.5 million will also be available this year with $3.25 million set aside to support low or zero-emission ferries in FTA's current Passenger Ferry Grant Program. The annual grant program funds capital projects that support existing passenger ferry service, establish new ferry service, and repair and modernize ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities and equipment in urbanized areas. 

Applications for the three programs are due by September 6, 2022

In 2021, the Passenger Ferry Grant program awarded funding to projects including a San Francisco Bay program that is developing the region's first zero-emission ferry service network. Other programs included support for a ferry service between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, and for a new landing barge and to modernize a passenger ferry operated by The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority. The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Public Works will receive funding to purchase a new passenger ferry while several projects focused on modernizing or building new terminals.