Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Freight and Passenger Ferry Improvement Funds Released

Secretary of Transportation Says Longer Term Investment Required
Shipping News Feature

US – Few people realise the scope and importance of both passenger and freight ferry services which form essential routes across the country. For some communities in America travel by water is not a luxury or even a convenience but an essential link both for work and supplies. Fortunately the Department of Transportation (DoT) has recognised the need to maintain and extend ferry availability and now Congress has authorised the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) MAP-21 Passenger Ferry Grant Program and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Ferry Boat and Ferry Terminals Facilities Program meaning a $123.5 million cash injection for the industry.

The DoT has pointed out that although many citizens know about well-known fleets like the Puget Sound ferries operating around Seattle and New York Harbour's NJ Transit ferries, hidden away all over the states are operations such as the Elizabeth River Ferry transporting thousands of passengers each year between the downtown centres of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, the Channel Cat that plies the Mississippi River near Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and the Harris County ferries, now known as the Lynchburg ferry, that carry thousands across the Houston Ship Channel in Texas.

This last has been operating continually for nearly two centuries, rescuing several thousand Texans fleeing the advance of Santa Anna in 1836 before defeating the Mexican General at San Jacinto and the free to use service has been considering replacement vessels for almost 15 years during which time Hurricane Ike caused $300,000 in damage in 2008.

The DoT says the new grants will establish new services as well as improving existing ones helping to repair and modernise vessels and terminals with the FTA providing $60 million in competitive funds for 26 projects in 13 states and Puerto Rico, and the FHWA $63.5 million to 114 operators in 37 states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The DoT are using the news to insist that ‘Grow America’ the legislative proposal that Secretary Foxx sent to Congress earlier this spring will end the short termism and will eliminate the problems which will arise should surface transportation funding expire or the Highway Trust Fund runs out. Secretary Foxx commented:

“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.”

Photo: The Lynchburg Ferry has a pedigree going back nearly two centuries.