September 16, 2015
Ferry Division officials discuss more
details on proposed passenger ferries
By CONNIE LEINBACH
The Ocracoke Observer
Carolina Ferry Division officials at the monthly meeting on Ocracoke
Monday talked more about the potential for passenger ferry service to
the island from Hatteras.
Jed Dixon, deputy ferry division director, who stressed that nothing
has been decided, said that the feasibility study being done by
Volkert, Inc., is expected to be done in November.
In the meantime, the division is continuing to explore this idea for relieving the traffic awaiting travel to Ocracoke.
To start out, the division is looking into having two 80-passenger boats, rather than a single 150-passenger boat.
“It’s a little easier to manage 80 people at a time,” Dixon said. “It’s more realistic, and, funding-wise, better.”
“Two would be more convenient for us,” added Harold Thomas, a deputy director based out of Morehead City, who also attended.
What’s more, with the new Strategic Transportation Initiative under
which all transportation needs are weighted and compete against other
projects for funding, smaller -- and less expensive -- passenger
ferries would compete better for the $30 million in transportation
money in District 1, which includes Ocracoke.
The big piece of the project is the cost of new ferries, Thomas said —
$16 million for a new sound-class ferry vs. $2.5 to $5 million for a
At the outset, passenger ferries would run only in the high season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Thomas said.
A $7 million grant recently approved for this project from Eastern
Federal Lands would include the building of one boat, Dixon said, as
well as island infrastructure.
Dixon showed drawings of suggested changes at the Ocracoke harbor area
and noted that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is interested in
joining with the ferry division to construct a larger building on the
site of the current Ocracoke Island Visitor Center.
This federal grant also would include purchase of an open-air tram to
shuttle visitors around the village. One tram that has been
looked at has two 18-seat sections.
Paying drivers and other maintenance would then be the responsibility of Hyde County Transit, he said.
“The trolleys could be used by all for a good portion of the year,”
Dixon said. “Nothing has been written in stone,” he said about any of
While Armstrong Marine in Swansboro has approached the ferry division
and the company is doing research on the construction of passenger
ferries, Dixon said, all boat-building would go out for bids.
The ferry division also is looking at different parking scenarios in Hatteras, including long-term parking, and on Ocracoke.
Thomas also suggested that passenger ferries might also be used on the
longer routes to Cedar Island and Swan Quarter, making those trips much
As for the continued shoaling of Hatteras Inlet, Dixon said the state
can only do what it is authorized to do, which is an area from the
Ocracoke side to near the middle of the inlet.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which historically has dredged from
outside the Hatteras terminal to the “gorge,” is seeking to dredge in
an area of the inlet that’s outside its scope.
“The Corps now has to dredge in an area they haven’t dredged before,”
Dixon said, and they have to get environmental permits to do so, as
well as public comment.
“The inlet has changed so much,” he added. “It’s frustrating for people using it because it’s their road.”
Ann Warner, one of the eight islanders who attended the meeting,
suggested that a sign be installed at the south dock—which is at the
north end of Ocracoke—noting that there is food and lodging 13 miles
down the road.
Dixon said islanders need to talk to Division 1 of the Transportation Department for this.
While these meetings are scheduled for the second Monday of the month,
the next meeting will be at 1 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Ocracoke Community
Center, since Oct. 12, the second Monday, is Columbus Day and a holiday.
(For more news and features about Ocracoke Island, go to The Ocracoke Observer at www.ocracokeobserver.com.)