FTA awards more than $384 million to improve passenger ferry operations

Jan. 27, 2023
The funding will go to 23 projects in 11 states with the money coming from three competitive grant programs.

A combined $383.4 million was awarded to 23 ferry projects in 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support expanding service, improving infrastructure and accelerating the transition to zero-emission fleets. Grants will fund projects, including replacement of old vessels, expand fleets and construction of new terminals and docks.

The federal funding is provided through three Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs, including:

  • $252.4 million awarded to eight projects in four states through the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program, which provides competitive funding to states for ferry service in rural areas;
  • $97.6 million awarded to seven projects in seven states through the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program that provides competitive funding for electric or low-emitting ferries and charging equipment; and
  • $34.4 million to eight projects in six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands through the Passenger Ferry Grant Program that supports capital projects to establish new ferry service and repair and modernize ferry vessels, terminals and facilities and equipment in urbanized areas.

"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.

Two of the grant programs – Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program and Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program – were established through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The two programs will award up to $2.5 billion in grants through Fiscal Year 2026.

FTA highlighted the nearly $286 million awarded to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities through six grants – five Rural Ferry grants and one Electric/Low-Emitting grant – that will allow the department to 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 state of New Jersey will receive a combined $11.3 million in two grants, including a $7.3 million grant awarded to New Jersey Transit through the Electric/Low-Emitting program to convert two New York Waterway vessels from diesel power to battery electric propulsion systems and purchase charging equipment to support the vessels. Additionally, the county of Monmouth will receive a $4 million grant through the Passenger Ferry program to replace and restore critical marine infrastructure to bring the Belford ferry terminal to a state of good repair.

In Louisiana, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will receive a $5.2 million grant through the Passenger Ferry program to support the Algiers Ferry Terminal and maintenance facilities. The grant will help New Orleans RTA increase the functional square footage of the terminal located at Algiers Point by adding a second floor, which will allow the agency to better serve riders by providing ferry operations, staff administrative space and rider convenience functions like restrooms and waiting areas. The authority also plans to replace Lower Algiers Maintenance Facility, which has major systems that have reached the end of their useful life.

"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."

A full list of grant recipients if available through FTA’s website.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.