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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Federal Highway Administration, through its federal lands access program, has awarded a grant for $900,000 to the St. Johns River Ferry.

The grant could go a long way in keeping the financially-challenged ferry in business. Funding for the St. Johns River Ferry has been up in the air for the past couple of years and it threatened to shut it down.

The St. Johns Ferry Commission took over running it two years ago since the ferry provides transportation to federal lands, such as the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve and Naval Station Mayport.

The grant will be payable in $450,000 payments each over the next two years.

Ferry commission chairman John Crescembini said the funds can be used for operational expenses, which is very unusual for a grant.

Crescembini said the grant will guarantee the ferry will be crossing the river for a while.

Crescembini said the commission early on hired a grant consultant, Langton and Associates. They applied for two federal grants, and this one came through. They are awaiting word on the other, which is for even more money.

The ferry was out of service for six weeks in December and January for an overhaul, but for each month this year, the ferry has been operating. Ridership and revenues for fiscal year 2014 are up over last year.

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