Passenger ferry trial run is set for spring
By PETER VANKEVICH
part of the feasibility study to see if a passenger ferry option should
be added to the Hatteras-Ocracoke car ferry runs, trial runs are
planned for this spring, Ed Goodwin, the N.C. Ferry Division director,
announced Monday at a public meeting in the Community Center.
attend monthly meetings in Raleigh and this is the fastest moving
transportation initiative in the state,” Goodwin said. “Everyone I have
spoken to has been supportive. Hopefully, the feasibility study we are
doing will confirm this.”
The fact that Hyde County Board of Commissioners has signed a letter supporting this idea is very important, he added.
Goodwin, it has been frustrating to see visitors get out of line
because of the sometimes two-and-a-half hour wait to board a ferry
during peak season.
Jed Dixon, deputy ferry
director, provided a visual presentation on how this service will
operate. He showed photos of the receding shoreline of the
Hatteras spit over the last 10 years, which is causing the
shoaling in the channel.
He pointed out
that dredging responsibilities are divided between the
state and the federal side managed by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers. By far, most of the area that needs most dredging is in the
area covered by Army Corps, which currently does not have the
funds to continue. North Carolina cannot do all of the dredging
which is why this initiative is being considered.
type of boat the Ferry Division has in mind would hold
149 passengers and is about 90 feet long and 40 feet wide. The crew
needed is three, a captain and two deck hands, as opposed to six crew
members needed for a car ferry. Once in the sound, it could
travel up to 28 knots, and the travel time into the village would take
one and a half hours or less.
Dixon outlined for this addition would include shorter wait time
for car ferries, a direct passenger route into Ocracoke village, the
ability to plan travel times by making reservations for departure
times, relieving vehicle traffic on Ocracoke, and increasing visitors
According to Goodwin, the cost of a
passenger ferry is about $5 million as opposed to $10 to $20 million
for a new car ferry. One possibility is to start with a lease
that includes an option to buy. Another option would include
private investors who would lease the boat(s) to the state.
Additional infrastructure needs include new docking and an embarking ramp that includes wheelchair accessibility.
the public comment period, Vince O’Neal, owner of the Pony Island
Restaurant, who was among about 40 islanders in the audience, thought
this was a good idea but implored DOT to not lose focus on reopening
the short route. He pointed out that the dredged sand could be used to
restore the receding Hatteras shoreline to slow down the shoaling.
He remembered when trolleys were used in the village many years
ago, and they caused congestion with their frequent stops. He said they
should also consider dropping off the passengers at the north end
terminal and shuttle them into the village.
said a contract for a feasibility study was recently
awarded to Volkert, a company that specializes in
transportation and infrastructure engineering services to federal,
state and municipal government and private industry clients. The final
report will be issued in December, but the company will keep the
ferry division informed of its findings throughout the year.
Hutcherson, owner of the Variety Store, pointed out that islanders need
to be thinking about major storms and alternatives for Ocracoke
residents to get on and off island when access through Hatteras Island
to Nags Head is blocked.
Islander Fred Westervelt
asked about using airboats. Goodwin pointed out that there are larger
hovercrafts but they are more expensive and have much higher
Hyde County Manager Bill Rich suggested that
passenger ferries may be the only alternative to getting more visitors
here since the $3.5 million spent on dredging the short route for three
months during the 2013 winter did not fix it.
the short run was going to work, we would not be having this
conversation,” he said. “We cannot rely on the federal government to
continue dredging. We have to secure our future. If we start by leasing
these boats, this will be the feasibility study itself.”
Rich complimented the Ferry Division for being pro-active.
stakeholders named for this feasibility study are the N.C. Ferry
Division, the NC DOT Strategic Planning Group, Hyde/Dare County
managers, Ocracoke working group, Hyde County Transit, U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
(Read more news about Ocracoke Island at www.ocracokeobserver.com. Reprinted with permission.)