US DOT offers ferry capital funding

Two recent developments at the U.S. Department of Transportation could offer public ferry system operators opportunities to help fund capital projects.

The DOT is accepting proposals for capital funding of transportation projects under the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program. Applications are due April 29 with $500 million available for distribution.

TIGER discretionary grants during fiscal year 2016 will fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure, including ferries operated by states, port authorities or other government entities, and are awarded on a competitive basis. Applicants must show that their proposals will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region. The 2015 TIGER grants included two awards of $10 million for ferry projects in Louisiana and Washington state.

Grants for ferry projects in urban areas can range from $5 million to $100 million, with a required non-federal local 20% cost share. For ferry systems in rural areas, minimum grants are $1 million with no local cost share. DOT has at least $100 million targeted for use on rural projects.

For more information on how to apply visit the DOT program page.

The Passenger Vessel Association reports that public ferry systems can also benefit from a new DOT policy to award so-called “orphan earmarks” – unused money appropriated by Congress in earlier years – to new capital projects.

The DOT is starting a process by which states can ask to r-purpose unused federal dollars that were designated prior to Sept. 30, 2005, for use on other qualifying projects within 50 miles of the original project that Congress set money for. The DOT has an online list of orphan earmarks by state and rules for applying.

Those proposals go through the Federal Highway Administration, so public ferry operators need to enlist their state transportation agency to advocate for their projects. If the state intends to obligate the repurposed funds before the end of the current federal fiscal year 2016, the FHWA division office must submit the completed request for repurposing to the FHWA Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) by Aug. 29.

If the state does not intend to obligate the repurposed funds before the end of the current fiscal year 2016, the FHWA division office must submit the completed request for repurposing to the OCFO by Sept. 12.

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Ashley Herriman

Ashley Herriman is WorkBoat's online editor.

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