The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) yesterday announced the award and distribution of approximately $123.5 million for passenger ferry projects and ferry operators throughout the United States and selected territories. The funds will support existing ferry service on many of the nation’s waterways, establish new ferry service where it is needed most and help to repair and modernize ferry boats, terminals and related facilities that thousands of residents in these communities depend on.
“Passenger ferries play an important role in our nation’s transportation network by connecting people with the jobs and services they need to reach across the river, the bay, or other local waterway,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We need Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill so we can continue to invest in ferry boat services that provide ladders of opportunity for hard-working families.”
The DOT’s ferry funds are administered separately through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Passenger Ferry Grant Program, which is providing $60 million in competitive funds for 26 projects in 13 states and Puerto Rico, and the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Ferry Boat Formula Program, which is providing $63.5 million to 114 operators in 37 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Through FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program, competitively awarded FY2013 and FY2014 funds will help existing ferry systems, such as the Corpus Christi Harbor Ferry in Texas, to refurbish two dock landing areas for the ferry service to better ensure safe and reliable service for passengers. The funds also support new ferry service, such as Virginia’s new commuter ferry from Jones Point Park in Alexandria to the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling military installation in Southeast Washington, D.C. The fund allows for the rehabilitation of the Cross Sound Ferry Service Terminal on Long Island that serves 1.1 million passengers each year between Orient Point, N.Y., and New London, Conn. Only designated and direct recipients of FTA’s Urbanized Area Program and federally recognized tribes operating public ferry systems in urbanized areas are eligible for capital project funds.
“Waterways help to define and shape the economies of many of our cities and tribal communities, and in these places, ferry service is an essential form of transportation,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan. “We must bring our existing ferry systems and facilities into a state of good repair and support new ferry service where there’s a clearly need.”
Projects eligible for FHWA’s FY 2014 Ferry Boat Program must be at least 50 percent publicly owned or operated and publicly regulated — a measure adopted to ensure that public funds are not used for private commercial ferry operations. Eligible operators and terminals are identified in the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ National Census of Ferry Operators.
“These projects help provide more travel choices to people and improve access to jobs,” Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. “Ferry service represents a key transportation link for certain communities – much like highways and bridges do in other areas of the country.”
Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program was authorized for the first time to provide competitive funding to public ferry systems in urbanized areas. Funds are awarded based on factors such as the age and condition of existing ferry boats, terminals and related infrastructure; benefits to riders, such as increased reliability; project readiness; and connectivity to other modes of transportation. MAP-21 changed the FHWA ferry boat program from a discretionary to a formula one, in which each state receives funding based on the number of passengers and vehicles a ferry service carries and its total route miles.