UPDATE: Tolls on Hatteras-Ocracoke
ferry off the table again
By CONNIE LEINBACH
effort to seek a toll on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is off the table
for now, Hyde County manager Bill Rich confirmed Friday.
night, at the monthly Ocracoke Civic and Business Association meeting,
Rich had reported that the N.C. Ferry Division would ask the Albemarle
Regional Planning Organization (RPO) to approve tolling visitors on the
two days of phone calls between Rich, N.C. Ferry Division Director Ed
Goodwin, state representatives and others, Goodwin “pulled the plug”
because Hyde County didn’t want it, Rich said.
this will not be on the agenda at the Wednesday RPO meeting, he said,
adding that Goodwin said he can “only do so much with the $37 million”
Ferry Division portion of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s
RPO is one of 10 in the state that receive a pot of money from state
coffers to pay for all transportation needs, including ferry
replacement, in District 1, which comprises 11 counties, including Hyde.
today, in a phone interview about his quest, Goodwin said that a toll
on the Hatteras ferry for tourists is the only way to raise enough
revenue to replace aging ferries, some of which are 52 years old.
trying to survive and provide service for Ocracoke,” he said about the
move. “In 2013, they (The General Assembly) said they would fix
it,” he said referring to the current law that has ferry replacement
money coming from the annual allotments to the RPOs. “They said that in
2014 and 2015, and it hasn’t happened. What can I do?”
said that State Rep. John A. Torbett, R-Gaston and the lobbyist team
hired by Hyde County — McClees Consulting — have said the General
Assembly will work on alternative funding for ferry replacement in the
short legislative session that begins in April.
the horse trading that went on this summer over the budget, Torbett
said he was guaranteed that in the next session, ferry replacement
funds would be removed from the purview of the RPOs.
when contacted Thursday, said that Ocracoke citizens need to stand up
to this request, and that he is working on removing all tolls from
North Carolina ferries.
is no rush to do anything. There is no rush to toll,” said Torbett, who
is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Transportation. “No
one in the General Assembly is talking about ferries. It’s status quo.
Ferries are moving bridges and they should get the same treatment as
said he and Rep. Paul Tine, U-Kitty Hawk, strove unsuccessfully in the
summer budget negotiations to include language in the budget that would
have gotten rid of all tolls.
is expected to attend the monthly meeting with Ferry Division officials
at 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in the Ocracoke Community Center. The public
is welcome to attend.
Rich said the island needs to continue to talk about passenger ferries because they should not be tied to the toll issue.
Goodwin and Jed Dixon, deputy director, have attended monthly meetings
here to discuss all things ferries, the topic of ferry tolls has not
come up in recent months.
Hass, Ferry Division information officer, said in an e-mail Friday that
of the 22 ferries in the fleet, nine are 25 years old or older and two
are 50-plus years of age.
He said that under current law, the Ferry Division raises money for new ferries in one of three ways:
- Revenue through tolling and other means (advertising, etc.)
- Appropriation of Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) money from RPOs
- Cost savings through reductions in service
the law that exists,” he said in an e-mail. “The Ferry Division cannot
base its operations on what might occur in the next session or future
Torbett stressed that the budget document does not contain any new language on tolling.
“The law is no different from what it was,” Torbett said.
also said that the General Assembly, by general statute, told Goodwin
to seek alternative sources of funding (which could be sponsorships,
advertising or concessions) for ferry replacement.
But Goodwin said he has gotten no response from the request-for-proposals the division promulgated for ferry sponsorship.
trying to find a solution to see if it’s acceptable (to Ocracoke),” he
said. “But if no one is satisfied then what do I do? Cut services
has been seeking to add one or two passenger ferries from Hatteras to
Silver Lake, each of which would cost about $ 2 million to build,
instead of about $15 million for a car ferry.
$7 million grant recently approved for this project from Eastern
Federal Lands would include the building of one boat, as well as island
infrastructure, Deputy Ferry Division Director Jed Dixon had reported
at the October monthly meeting.
This federal grant also would include purchase of an open-air tram to shuttle visitors around the village.
complicated funding procedure devised in 2013 by Gov. Pat McCrory and
called the Strategic Transportation Investments divided the state into
10 regions (RPOs) all of whom were given $32 million with which to fund
bridges, trains, airports, roads, bike and pedestrian projects and
ferry replacement. Prior to this initiative, ferry replacements were
done by an appropriation from the legislature.
(Peter Vankevich contributed to this article. For more news and features on Ocracoke, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com)