|Ocracoke Update: Life without a highway
| January 31, 2008
Beach detour adds time to daily commute to work on the ferry
By JAMIE TUNNELL
of the benefits of living in a village that is just three square miles
is the commute. A National Public Radio study showed that Americans
commute an average of 25 minutes, which adds up to almost nine full
days a year behind the wheel.
The average commute for most residents on Ocracoke is fewer than
five minutes, even on the busiest day of July, whether you drive, walk,
Tourists often ask if there are many commuters who work off the
island. Commuting to Swan Quarter or Cedar Island just isn’t
practical with the 2.5-hour ferry ride one way. Commuting to Hatteras
though is not such a far-fetched idea. There have been residents who
have worked at Cape Hatteras School as well as island children who have
been enrolled there.
Pam Midgett has worked for the North Carolina Department of
Transportation’s Ferry Division for 28 years. She currently works
as an office assistant for the ferry maintenance and dredge operations
- in Hatteras. She has been commuting to Hatteras regularly for the
last four years. Her 20-minute drive to the Hatteras ferry has been
extended to about 30 to 40 minutes, which includes the beach detour.
That’s in addition to the 40-minute ferry ride across the inlet
and the short walk over to her office. Then the process repeats in
reverse each afternoon.
“At first, I was really nervous about driving on the beach
because I really have never driven out there,” said Midgett, who
has lived on Ocracoke for 16 years and grew up in Hatteras. “But
it’s not been bad at all.”
With her first few trips, when the beach detour first started, she said
that the ramps weren’t very well-marked. But after a few test
runs, she was fine.
“The whole project was so well-planned,” said Midgett.
She said that it is definitely easier driving in the daylight and a much smoother ride if you can drive down by the water.
Laughing, she said, “I definitely have prayed about it.
I’ve been safe so far and I always see Jarvis Williams out
Jarvis Williams of Cape Point Exxon in Buxton is working under contract
to DOT during the beach detour to tow vehicles that get stuck out of
the sand at no cost to the drivers.
Coming from the other side every day is Heather Oden, a nurse at the
Ocracoke Health Center. She commutes from Hatteras, Monday through
“I catch the 7 a.m. ferry over from Hatteras, which is what
I’ve always done,” said Oden. “I just arrive at the
Health Center a little later, around 8:20.”
She has had problems coming over because of limited space on the ferry.
“There have been two mornings that I was bumped because of some
big trucks coming over,” said Oden. “Luckily, they ran a
ferry at 8 a.m.”
Oden arrives home a little later than usual.
“On most days, I catch the 6 p.m. ferry back to Hatteras, instead
of the 5 p.m.,” she said. During the beach detour project, the
Hatteras ferry schedule runs limited hours, leaving Hatteras on the odd
hours and Ocracoke on the even hours.
Like Midgett, Oden was nervous about driving on the beach but quickly fell into the routine.
“I really thought it would be harder,” said Oden. “I
always see Jarvis and feel pretty comfortable taking the detour. Plus,
who else can say they have to drive on the beach to get to work?”