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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today reintroduced her Ferry Transportation Enhancement Act (Ferry-TEA) to help increase the federal investment in ferry transportation in Washington state and across the country. Murray’s amendment would provide $150 million a year for the Federal Highway Administration’s Ferry Boat Discretionary Program over the next six years. This is approximately four times the $38 million a year that is currently being provided under this program.

“Ferry travel is an increasingly important part of our economy and transportation system in Washington state and across the country,” Murray said. “The nation’s ferry system carries millions of people every year and those numbers are rising. Despite this fact, our federal investment is not keeping up with demand. My bill recognizes the importance of ferries to our nation’s transportation system infrastructure and provides the resources they need to grow.”

The nation’s six largest ferry systems – Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, New York/New Jersey, North Carolina and San Francisco – transport tens of millions of people and vehicles every year. Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry operation in the country, transports approximately 26 million passengers each year and carries 11 million vehicles – that is more passengers in one state than Amtrak transports on a yearly basis nationwide.

Despite being the preferred, and at times the sole means of surface transportation in many areas of the country, the federal investment in ferries is currently only one-tenth of one percent of the total Surface Transportation Program and there is virtually no coordination at the federal level to encourage and promote ferry transportation.

Growth projections predict that ferry use will increase dramatically over the next four years. For the nation’s six largest ferry system, there is a 14 percent projected growth for passenger traffic and a 17 percent expected increase in vehicles carried by ferries by 2009.

Murray’s Ferry Transportation Enhancement Act:

  • Provides $150 million per year for the Federal Highway Administration’s Ferry Boat Discretionary Program for fiscal years 2004-2009. This is four times the amount currently provided per year under the program.

  • Allows ferry maintenance facilities to be eligible for funds from the Ferry Boat Discretionary Program.

  • Adds ferries to the Clean Fuels Program which will help boat makers design cleaner and more efficient vessels.

  • Establishes a Ferry Joint Program Office to coordinate federal programs affecting ferry boat and ferry facility construction, maintenance, and operations, and to promote ferry service as a component of the nation’s mass transit system.

  • Establishes an information database of ferry systems, routes, vessels, passengers and vehicles carried.

  • Establishes an institute for ferries to conduct research and development, conduct training programs, encourages collaborative efforts to promote ferry service, and preserve historical information.

Senators Boxer (D-CA), Cantwell (D-WA), Clinton (D-NY), Collins (R-ME), Corzine (D-NJ), Feinstein (D-CA), Kennedy (D-MA), Schumer (D-NY), Snowe (R-ME), and Stevens (R-AK) are original cosponsors of Senator Murray’s legislation.