(The Center Square) — The feds are sending $4 million to the Georgia Department of Transportation to buy a new electric ferry.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will use the ferry for its passenger service between Meridian and Sapelo Island in McIntosh County. The new ferry will replace an older vessel to continue daily transit service.
Officials say the ferry, which takes about 20 minutes to run between the island and the mainland, is vital for residents who rely on it for their medical, education and shopping needs. A spokeswoman for the Georgia DNR referred questions about the ferry to the GDOT, which did not respond to a request for more information about the project.
The money is part of $384.4 million in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which the Federal Transit Administration announced to expand and update ferry service nationwide. The FTA awarded 23 grants across 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and about $100 million of the money will go toward low- and no-emission ferries.
Georgia owns about 97% of Sapelo Island, a state-managed barrier island located about 60 miles south of Savannah. In December 2015, members of the island’s Gullah-Geechee community filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against state and local officials.
In 2020, the state agreed to settle and upgrade the transportation facilities residents use to travel to and from the island; the upgrades were estimated to cost more than $10 million. In 2022, McIntosh County agreed to pay $2 million in damages and improve emergency services on the island, which included the addition of a helipad.
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