Ferry Boat Discretionary Program

Cassville Car Ferry The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, authorized $60 million for the Ferry Boat Discretionary (FBD) program for the construction of ferry boats and ferry terminal facilities. Applications must be submitted to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) headquarters by May 15, 2009.

Title XII of the Recovery Act authorized the funds for the FBD program to reimburse up to 100 percent of project costs at the option of the recipient. Priority is to be given to projects that can be completed by Feb. 17, 2011, and projects in economically distressed areas as defined by Section 301 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, as amended (42 U.S.C. 3161).

Because the ARRA emphasizes "ready-to-go" projects and the FBD provision gives priority to projects that can be completed by Feb. 17, 2011, the FHWA prefers making awards to projects that can be obligated during FY 2009, if the requested FBD funding is provided. Work and expenditures on the project are expected to commence as soon as practicable following obligation.

All FBD program requirements also will apply to the ARRA FBD funds, with the exception of the set-asides in 23 U.S.C. 147(d).

The ARRA included additional requirements as outlined in Attachment 1. Those requirements include, but are not limited to, the reporting requirements in Sections 1201 and 1512 of the ARRA. The ARRA also requires recipients and their subawardees to provide a DUNS number ( and to have a current registration in the Central Contractor Registration (

Separately, SAFETEA-LU authorized FY 2009 FBD program funds. In the omnibus appropriations act signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 11, Congress designated some FBD funding and provided some for discretionary allocation. FHWA will solicit applications separately for the discretionary portion of this funding in the near future.

Project applications may be initiated by any public entity, including the states, cities, counties, transit authorities or other ferry operators, but all applications must be reviewed, prioritized, and submitted by the state DOT, including the U.S. territories, to the appropriate FHWA division office.


As specified in 23 U.S.C 147(a), this program is for the construction of ferry boats and ferry terminal facilities in accordance with 23 U.S.C.129(c). FBD funds are available for construction/improvement to ferry boats or ferry boat terminals where:

  • It is not feasible to build a bridge, tunnel, combination thereof, or other normal highway structure in lieu of the use of such ferry.
  • The operation of the ferry shall be on a route classified as a public road within the state and which has not been designated as a route on the Interstate System. Projects under this subsection may be eligible for both ferry boats carrying cars and passengers and ferry boats carrying passengers only.
  • Such ferry boat or ferry terminal facility shall be publicly owned or operated or majority publicly owned if the Secretary determines, with respect to a majority publicly owned ferry or ferry terminal facility, that such ferry boat or ferry terminal facility provides substantial public benefits.
  • The ferry does not operate in international waters except for: Hawaii, Alaska, any territory of the United States, and between a state and Canada.

Selection criteria

The statutory criteria for the ARRA FBD funds are found in the ARRA and 23 U.S.C. 147(c). Section 147(c) provides: The Secretary shall give priority in the allocation of funds under this section to those ferry systems, and public entities responsible for developing ferries, that:

  1. Provide critical access to areas that are not well-served by other modes of surface transportation.
  2. Carry the greatest number of passengers and vehicles. or
  3. Carry the greatest number of passengers in passenger-only service.
Selection criteria under the ARRA include:
  1. Priority given to those projects that demonstrate their ability to be completed by Feb. 17, 2011.
  2. Priority given to projects that are located in economically distressed areas as defined by section 301 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, as amended (42 U.S.C. 3161).
  3. Projects that can be started and completed expeditiously.
  4. Projects that maximize job creation and economic benefit.

The FHWA has not established regulatory criteria for selection of FBD projects; however, FHWA will consider the following additional factors in the evaluation of candidates for Recovery Act FBD program funding:

  • Expeditious completion of project - Consideration is given to requests that will expedite the completion of a viable project. This means a project's ability to expeditiously complete usable ferry boat or terminal facilities within the limited funding amounts available. This program is intended for construction rather than for initial funding of a project that is dependent on future commitments of additional funding before a usable project can be completed.
  • State priorities - For States that submit more than one project, consideration is given to the individual State’s priorities.
  • Leveraging of private or other public funding - Because the annual requests for funding far exceed the available FBD funds, commitment of other funding sources to complement the requested FBD funding is an important factor.
  • National geographic distribution of funding within the FBD program - Consideration is given to selecting projects over time among all the States competing for funding.
  • Amount of FBD funding - The requested amount of funding is a consideration. Realizing the historically high demand for funding under this program, modest sized requests for funding that would allow more States to receive funding under this program are given added consideration.

Submission requirements

Only state departments of transportation may submit applications for funding under this program. On April 12, 2009, the Iowa DOT issued a solicitation notice seeking applications for funding. Applications were due to the Iowa DOT for review and prioritization by May 7, 2009. Attachment 2 serves as the Project Application form.

Iowa applications

The Iowa DOT received no applications for the Ferry Boat Discretionary Program by the May 7, 2009, deadline. As such, no applications were forwarded from Iowa to the FHWA for funding consideration.

However, a multi-state application was submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation on behalf of the city of Rock Island, Illinois, and city of Davenport, Iowa. The project, titled the Lower Pool Passenger Ferry Boat, would provide for a passenger ferry boat operation across the Mississippi River in the lower pool below Lock and Dam #15, establishing connecting service to terminals in Rock Island and Davenport. The estimated cost of the project is $4,414,000 and would serve an estimated 10,800 passengers monthly during its seasonal operation from May to September each year. The passenger ferry is one of many components identified in the RiverVision Plan, a cooperative venture between the cities.

While the application in the Lower Pool Passenger Ferry Boat project was not submitted through the Iowa DOT, the department expressed strong support for the project to the FHWA. The Iowa DOT offered its support for the project because it will provide an important new alternative transportation connection in the Quad Cities metropolitan area. The proposed service directly links the downtowns of Rock Island and Davenport, and passengers will have access to existing and future public transit service providing access to the entire metropolitan area. Unfortunately, this project was not among those included in the FHWA’s July 14, 2009, funding announcement.

Cassville Car FerryThe FHWA awarded a $1.8 million grant to the Wisconsin DOT for a ferry boat project that will benefit Iowa. Funding will be used to replace a deteriorating ferry boat operated by the Cassville Car Ferry, which carries passengers across the Mississippi River between Cassville, Wis., and the Turkey River boat landing near Millville (Clayton County), Iowa. The Cassville Car Ferry is the oldest operating ferry service in the state of Wisconsin. The present 43-year-old ferry makes between 35 and 45 trips per day and can carry up to nine cars. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the ferry operates seven days per week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It connects two national scenic byways (Great River Road and Iowa Great River Road). For more information about the Cassville Car Ferry visit: