Channel Cat gets $1.85M to add stop at East Moline’s Bend

The Channel Cat Water Taxi will again be stopping in East Moline thanks to a $1.85 million federal infrastructure grant to build a new dock terminal at the Bend on the Mississippi development. 

MetroLINK, which owns and operates the bistate region’s river ferry, was among projects in 11 states and territories to receive the Passenger Ferry Grant Program funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The grants announced Friday, Feb. 18, are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden last year.

Jennifer Hirsch, MetroLINK’s manager of administration, said the organization is excited to add what will be its fifth Quad Cities stop for the passenger ferry boat. The water taxi previously had an East Moline stop at The Quarter located upriver but ceased operations after a 2006 flood took out the dock. “It didn’t make sense to replace it at the time,” she told the QCBJ. 

However, with the growing presence of The Bend District on the riverfront and the City of East Moline’s desire to improve the connectivity between its riverfront and downtown, Ms. Hirsch said, “It was the perfect opportunity to revisit adding the Channel Cat back to East Moline.” 

The dock project, which is expected to open for the 2024 season, aligns with the city’s plans to increase multimodal travel between bus routes, paratransit and the riverfront bike trail network, Ms. Hirsch said in a news release.

“The new dock is planned to improve access to mobility by enhancing features that support safety, ADA access such as railings, ramps, and wayfinding,” she added.

The multi-million-dollar award was announced in a joint press release Friday issued by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline; and U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Illinois Democrats.   

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Passenger Ferry Grant Program not only continues but will be complemented by two new competitive grant programs, including: 

  • Up to $2 billion for Ferry Service for Rural Communities to improve access and mobility in areas where ferry service is a critical link for communities.
  • Up to $500 million for an Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry pilot program to support the transition of passenger ferries to low- or zero-emission technologies, which will help fight the climate crisis.

The Channel Cat, which kicks off the 2022 season on Memorial Day weekend, has provided three open-air passenger ferry boats that have docked at four sites on the Mississippi River, including two in Moline and one each in Bettendorf and Davenport.

Ms. Hirsch said MetroLINK also has plans this summer to replace the docks at the Village of East Davenport and the John Deere Commons in downtown Moline. Its home port is at Moline’s  Riverbend Commons, completely reconstructed in 2016. It also makes stops at the Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf. The season traditionally runs through October, weather permitting.

“The Quad-Cities MetroLINK Channel Cat is a fun and unique way for folks in our community to cross the Mississippi River,” Ms. Bustos said in the release. “I’m thrilled to join Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to announce more than $1.8 million in infrastructure funding to construct a brand-new terminal in East Moline. This project will create local jobs and boost development right here in the Quad-Cities – all while improving our water taxi system.”

The Rock Island County transit organization was among 24 U.S. projects vying for the competitive ferry grant program. The 11 winning projects shared a total of $45.3 million in the fiscal year 2021 grants from the FTA to support passenger ferry service. Grants awarded will help buy, repair, and modernize ferry boats and terminals that residents depend upon. 

The grant program funds capital projects supporting the existing passenger ferry service, establishing a new ferry service, upgrading ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities and equipment. The grants also help transit agencies and ferry companies offset the considerable cost of introducing new, climate-friendly propulsion technologies. 

Ms. Hirsch said the project has not yet been designed. She said the siting of the dock must undergo an extensive environmental process but expected construction to begin next year.

MetroLINK will be responsible for a 10% match; the federal funding represents 90% of the project cost. 

“We’re the only Midwest property that received funds and one of the few Midwest ferry boat services,” Ms. Hirsch said. 


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