News Releases

(SEATTLE, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA2) held a press conference to discuss the U.S. Ferry Systems Investment Act of 2009, which would dramatically increase funding for Washington state’s ferry system and other commuter ferries across the nation.  Speaking from Seattle’s main ferry terminal, Murray and Larsen noted the impact that ferry transit has on thousands of commuters and workers in Washington state and emphasized the critical importance of improving the ferry network and preventing ferries from falling into disrepair.

“Washington state families and commuters understand the importance of ferries, and this bill makes a strong investment in this critical link in our transportation chain,” said Senator Patty Murray. “This bill will create jobs and boost the economy directly, as well as increase productivity and lay the groundwork for long term economic growth.”

“Washington State Ferries connect local communities to keep our economy moving,” said Representative Rick Larsen. “For thousands of my constituents, ferries offer the only practical way to get to work and return home. The U.S. Ferry Investment Act will strengthen funding for ferries to create jobs, invest in public safety and help build a foundation for long-term economic growth in Washington state.”

The U.S. Ferry Systems Investment Act of 2009 would invest $200 million a year in funding for ferry systems across the country starting in Fiscal Year 2010, and running through Fiscal Year 2015.

“The federal government rightfully invests in roads, bridges and rail,” said David Moseley, Assistant Secretary for Washington State Ferries. “I’m glad that Senator Murray and Representative Larsen are pushing this critical investment in our ferries, because they are our maritime highways and our bridges across the water.”

The funding would be divided into two parts. Half of the money ($100 million a year) would be distributed according to a formula that takes into account straightforward factors such as how many passengers use the ferry system each year, how many vehicles are carried, and how many total miles the routes contain.  The other half ($100 million a year) would be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary of Transportation using a competitive process.

In addition to the funding changes, the bill also includes the following additional ways to strengthen ferry systems across the country:

  • Makes ferry systems eligible to compete for funding under the Clean Fuels Grant Program.
  • Establishes a Ferry Joint Program Office within U.S. DOT to coordinate federal programs (DOT, DHS, etc.) affecting ferry and ferry facility construction, maintenance, operations and security, and to promote ferry transportation as a component of the U.S. transportation system. 
  • Requires U.S. DOT to ensure the National Ferry Database is consistent with the database maintained by the Federal Transit Administration.
  • Authorizes funding to establish a National Ferry Transportation Institute at a college or university. The institute is directed to conduct research, training, and develop models and recommendations to improve the operation and safety of ferry systems in the U.S.