News Releases

Murray Introduces Ferry Transportation Enhancement Act

Jun 26 2003

Bill would boost federal investment in ferries, promote ferries as nationally recognized mode of mass transit

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Patty Murray today introduced the Ferry Transportation Enhancement Act (Ferry-TEA) to help boost the federal investment in ferry transportation across the country. The bill will authorize a significant increase in resources to state governments, public ferry systems, and public entities responsible for the development and construction of ferry facilities.

The nations six largest ferry systems - Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, New York/New Jersey, North Carolina and San Francisco - transported 73 million people and 13 million vehicles last year. Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry operation in the country, transport 26 million passengers and 11 million vehicles per year.

Despite being the preferred and, at times, sole means of surface transportation in many areas of the country, the federal investment in ferries is 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.

“The symbol of ferries moving people and vehicles across the Puget Sound is as much a part of our state’s identity as Boeing aircraft and Washington apples,” Senator Murray said. “Ferry travel is an important and growing mode of transportation in Washington state and across the country.

The Ferry Transportation Enhancement Act provides the resources and infrastructure necessary to help our ferry system expand to meet passenger needs.”

The 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 ferryboat 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, encourage collaborative efforts to promote ferry service, and preserve historical information.

Despite the fact that the federal investment in ferries is currently only one-tenth of one percent of the total Surface Transportation Program, growth projections predict that ferry use will increase dramatically over the next five years. For the nation’s six largest ferry systems, there is a 14% projected growth for passenger traffic and a 17% expected increase in vehicles carried by ferries by 2009.

“Ferry travel is an increasingly important part of our economy and transportation system. The nation’s ferry systems carry millions of people every year, and the numbers are rising. Despite this growing importance, our federal investment in ferries pales in comparison to those for highways and other forms of mass transit” Senator Murray said. “My bill recognizes the importance of ferries to our nation’s transportation infrastructure and provides the resources and support they need to grow.”

Senators Boxer (CA), Cantwell (WA), Corzine (NJ), Clinton (NY), Edwards (NC), Feinstein (CA), Hollings (SC), Kennedy (MA), Lautenberg (NJ), and Schumer (NY) are original cosponsors of Senator Murray’s legislation.