FTA awards more than $45 million in passenger ferry grants to 11 states and territories

Feb. 21, 2022
President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will mean more funding for ferries, lower emissions and a special emphasis on rural communities.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $45.3 million in FY21 grants to projects in 11 states and territories to support passenger ferry service.  

Grants awarded through FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program help buy, repair and modernize ferry boats and terminals that residents depend upon.  

"Passenger ferries offer travelers and commuters in many American communities a safe, efficient, climate-friendly way to get where they need to be," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "Thanks to the president's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, new funding will bring needed improvements to ferry services in America, particularly in rural communities, and help passenger ferries reduce their emissions." 

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15, 2021, this program will not only continue but will also be complemented by two new passenger ferry competitive grant programs, including:  

  • Up to $2 billion for ferry service for rural communities to improve access and mobility in areas where ferry service is a critical link for communities; and 
  • Up to $500 million for an electric or low-emitting ferry pilot program to support the transition of passenger ferries to low- or zero-emission technologies, which will help fight the climate crisis. 

The Passenger Ferry Grant Program funds capital projects that support existing passenger ferry service, establish new ferry service and upgrade ferry boats, terminals and related facilities and equipment. The grants also help transit agencies and ferry companies offset the considerable cost of introducing new, climate-friendly propulsion technologies.   

"Passenger ferries are a critical form of public transportation in the United States, allowing commuters and others to get to work, school and medical appointments," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "Funding through the passenger ferry grant program ensures this infrastructure remains safe and dependable for people all over the country." 

Examples of projects selected to receive FY21 funding include: 

  • The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) will receive $3.4 million to construct a new zero-emission ferry, which will be the region's first. This project will reduce congestion and provide fast, clean and reliable ferry transit service to growing neighborhoods with limited surface street access and few transit options. 
  • The Casco Bay Island Transit District in Portland, Maine, will receive $3.6 million to replace a passenger ferry nearing the end of its useful life, with a new ferry equipped with a diesel electric hybrid propulsion system. This project will ensure continued service reliability, maintain a state of good repair and, by improving air quality, advance environmental justice in the Portland community. 
  • Kitsap Transit in Kitsap County, Wash., will receive $7.7 million to replace a diesel vessel with a new, environmentally friendly battery-electric passenger-only ferry and necessary charging infrastructure to carry passengers across Sinclair Inlet, between Port Orchard and Bremerton. This project will ensure continued service reliability, maintain a state of good repair and, by improving air quality, advance environmental justice.  

In response to the Notice of Funding Opportunity, FTA received 24 eligible project proposals in 11 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands totaling approximately $113 million in funding requests.   

Funding through the Passenger Ferry Grant Program included the annually authorized $30 million, plus an additional $8 million appropriated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Additional funding was available from prior year authorizations for a total amount available of $45.3 million.