U.S. Increases Grant Availability to $316M to Modernize Ferry Services

Last year Alaska received the largest grants to modernize its Marine Highway

Published Apr 17, 2024 6:57 PM by The Maritime Executive


The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced today the availability of $316 million to support and modernize passenger ferry service in communities across the country. With additional money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the 2024 initiative will increase by more than 40 percent federal support for ferry service improvements.

"I have seen firsthand how, for many Americans in many different parts of the country, ferries are the best and sometimes only way to get where they need to go," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He estimated that across the country, there are approximately three million ferry riders each month, utilizing the transit services to get to work, school, healthcare appointments, and more.

The funding from the Infrastructure Law will be added to the Federal Transit Administration’s longstanding Passenger Ferry Program. The 2024 Notice of Funding Opportunity announced today breaks down the availability into three tranches with a June 17, 2024, deadline for applications.

The Passenger Ferry Program will support capital projects to buy, replace, or modernize passenger ferries, terminals, and related equipment in urban areas. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, $51 million is available.

The Electric or Low Emitting Ferry Program will provide federal support to transit agencies to buy ferry vessels that reduce emissions by using alternative fuels or onboard energy storage systems. For FY 2024, $49 million is available.
The Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program will provide federal support to ferry services in rural areas, including capital, planning, and operating costs. For FY 2024, $216 million is available.

"Passenger ferries provide critical and cost-effective travel for people throughout the United States, but many ferry agencies are not able to maintain all of their vessels in a state of good repair and make necessary investments in safety," said FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. "FTA is pleased to provide federal support to help modernize and expand how people travel by water while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Past grants have helped transit authorities upgrade ferry service across the country, from Alaska to Maine, to Georgia and California. Last year, the largest grants went to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities for the Alaska Marine Highway System. Included in it were funds for a new vessel to replace a nearly 60-year-old ferry.

Other grants in 2023 included the American Samoa Department of Public Works to build two new low-emission ferries while in San Francisco funds will be used for a battery charging system at two terminus points. The Michigan Department of Transportation also received funds for a new ferry and to repair a dock. In total, over a dozen grants were awarded valued at over $220 million. 

The FTA has been administering the program for more than a decade to assist local ferry transit operations.