tolls likely to increase in 2012
By MEGAN S.
tolls will again become a hot-button topic for Hyde citizens and all
ferry-riders in North Carolina as Department of Transportation
officials explore ways to increase revenue.
County Public Information
Lucy Wallace, spokesperson for the NCDOT Ferry Division, said the
division has been mandated by the General Assembly to increase revenue
by $4.5 million through tolls. Public hearings on the matter are slated
for early 2012, and the tolls are to be in place by April 1, 2012.
Currently it costs motorists $15 to take the two-plus-hour trip across
the Pamlico Sound to and from Ocracoke. There are two routes
one from Cedar Island and the other from Swan Quarter.
This issue was in the forefront this time last year, as DOT officials
eyed the possibility of charging tolls for ferry services - even the
free Hatteras -Ocracoke ferry.
Islanders, including Hyde County Commissioner Darlene Styron, didn't
think they should be charged to leave the island because many goods and
services are not available on Ocracoke. Styron said residents shouldn't
be charged to go to the dentist. Ocracoke business owners feared that
tourism would take a hit, too. "Day-trippers" vacationing on the
northern Outer Banks may opt out of a ferry ride to Ocracoke if a fee
With this brought to light, the Hatteras ferry route was exempted from
the 2011 legislation that requires ferry revenues be raised. Lawmakers
cited the ferry route as the only transportation to Ocracoke Island.
The Currituck-Knotts Island route was also exempt because kids take the
ferry to school.
Greer Beaty, director of communications for the Department of
Transportation, said after the ferry division was saddled with the
required $4.5 million increase, DOT contracted a private company to
conduct a study on ferries and the increase in tolls.
The study is almost completed, and Beaty said it will be released early
2012 -- likely in January. Detailed findings would be outlined during
public hearings on the proposed tolls. She said dates had yet to be set
for the meetings.
"We certainly want everyone to see the study and give their feedback,''
The Star News of Wilmington reported the DOT consultant's study will
offer "detailed insight" about how much ferry tolls should increase
this year and came at a cost of $105,000 to taxpayers.