Infrastructure bill will help ferry system stay afloat

President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure act will help fund ferries in Washington state.

President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure act will help fund ferry boats in the state of Washington, but what impact that will have on service on Whidbey Island remains to be seen.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, was instrumental into getting ferry funding into the historic Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act. The language in the bill is based on his GREEN Ferries Act, which directs $250 million to a pilot program to help states and localities purchase electric or low-emission ferries and construct related infrastructure, according to his office.

“We’re looking into how this program might help us electrify the WSF fleet and terminals,” Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling said.

The act also authorizes $1 billion over five years for basic essential ferry service to rural areas like Whidbey Island.

In addition, a provision authorizes $15 billion over five years for capital investment grants for “fixed guideway projects, including ferries, rapid and commuter rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit,” according to Larsen’s office.

Other investments over five years include $4.7 billion to repair and rebuild highways; $1.79 billion to improve public transportation options; $882 million to improve water infrastructure and ensure clean, safe drinking water; $605 million to replace and repair bridges; $384.7 million to keep airport infrastructure projects on track; $172 million for NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to support state and Tribal salmon habitat restoration projects.

In addition, at least $100 million will go toward building reliable broadband coverage statewide to at least 241,000 Washington residents.

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