A ferry on the water.

Several state departments of transportation received grant awards from the Federal Transit Administration as part of $384.4 million in funds issued via the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted November 2021, for expanding and improving the nation’s ferry service nationwide as well as accelerate the transition to zero-emission propulsion systems.

[Above photo via the FTA]

In total, FTA awarded 23 grants across 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to fund a wide variety of projects, including the replacement of old vessels, fleet expansions, and the construction of new terminals and docks.

Nearly $100 million of the national grants will go toward low- and no-emission ferries, helping decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, it said.

The agency is making all of that funding available through three FTA competitive grant programs:

  • FTA’s Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program provides competitive funding to states for ferry service in rural areas. FTA is awarding $252.4 million to eight projects in four states via this program.
  • FTA’s Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program provides competitive funding for electric or low-emitting ferries and charging equipment that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using alternative fuels or on-board energy storage systems. FTA is awarding $97.6 million to seven projects in seven states via this program.
  • FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program supports capital projects to establish new ferry service, and repair and modernize ferry vessels, terminals, and facilities and equipment in urbanized areas. FTA is awarding $34.4 million to eight projects in six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands via this program.

“Today’s announcement represents a record amount of support for transit ferries in our country,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez in a statement. “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.”

Seven state DOTs are receiving FTA funds for a variety of ferry projects:  

  • 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 Georgia Department of Transportation will receive $4 million on behalf of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to buy a new electric ferry to replace an older vessel for the continuation of daily transit services in McIntosh County. The DNR operates passenger ferry service between Meridian, and Sapelo Island, ensuring residents have access to medical, education, shopping needs and other mainland points of interest.
  • 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 ferry. 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 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 Michigan Department of Transportation will receive $6.6 million to renovate docks and build a new ferry for the Charlevoix to Beaver Island route. Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan and the most remote inhabited island in the Great Lakes.
  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division will receive $1.34 million to modernize the NCDOT Manns Harbor Shipyard paint facility, increasing safety and bringing it up to a state of good repair. Modernization work at the shipyard, built in the 1960s, will include replacing interior lighting with LED, installing explosion-proof lighting and using fire-retardant paint to increase efficiency and provide a safe working environment.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division will receive $11.6 million for three projects: building a new Southworth Ferry Terminal; construction of an electric charging facility at the Clinton Ferry Terminal; and upgrades for its electronic payment system for passenger fares.