Paul Tine, U-Kitty Hawk, has introduced a bill to fund new ferry
vessels from the general transportation budget and eliminate all ferry
House Bill 1002 is online at http://ncleg.net and can be viewed here. If passed, it would be effective July 1.
The bill asks for $13.85 million to be
appropriated from the Highway Fund in 2016 to 2017 and that it be
a recurring fund for the ferry division to do both rehab on
ferries and also purchase new ones.
It allows for the Ferry Division of the N.C.
Department of Transportation to seek revenues from concession sales,
sponsorships or other receipt-generating activity “not otherwise
forbidden by applicable law,” and these funds can be used to fund ferry
The bill also calls for refunding, full or
in part, prepaid commuter passes and any funds in this account are to
be used for rehabilitation and replacement of ferry vessels and
infrastructure at the NC State Shipyard and the system terminals.
Co-sponsored by representatives John Torbett,,
R-Gaston, Linda P. Johnson, R-Caburrus, and Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, the
bill’s preamble calls it “an act to provide stability and
predictability within the state ferry system by restoring state control
to the setting of ferry tolls of ferries and other capital
improvements, as recommended by the House Select Committee on Strategic
Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions.”
Effectively, this would relieve
the Albemarle Regional Planning Organization (ARPO) of approving
ferry tolls to fund replacement boats.
“This is consistent with what we’ve tried to do the last couple of sessions,” Tine said in an interview on Friday.
Moreover, this bill came out of the Strategic
Planning committee, chaired by Torbett. The committee visited mainland
Hyde in January and were greeted by Ocracoke islanders at the Swan
Quarter ferry dock.
“This is a committee recommendation,” Tine said about his bill.
Rep. Paul Tine greets islanders in January at the Swan Quarter ferry dock. Photo: C. Leinbach
Tine said his bill is similar to one that is
expected to be filed soon by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, which asks for
the $23 million the Ferry Division has requested.
Tim Hass, Ferry Division spokesman, said $23
million is what the Ferry Division would like in order to fund all of
their 10-year capital improvement projects.
Tine said he hopes one of these initiatives will finally pass since North Carolina has a reported $90 million budget surplus.
The General Assembly got back to work April 25 in
what’s called a short session. Since the N.C. legislature convenes for
full sessions in odd years, the three-month or so time in which they
convene in even-numbered years is called the short session.
Henri McClees, a lobbyist hired by Hyde and two
other counties to fight ferry tolls, said that in these short sessions
legislators usually like to be done by July 4. After that, they
do their campaigning and reconvene in January.
These proposed bills stem from the need for money to pay for replacement ferries in the N.C. Ferry Division’s aging fleet.
Historically, ferry replacements were simply done
by a legislative appropriation, but in 2013, the legislature decided to
boot the hot potato issue of ferry funding down to the local level.
Then Gov. Pat McCrory divided the state into 10
districts, giving them each a pot of money in which to fund all
These districts are overseen by a Regional
Planning Organization (RPO) composed of various elected officials, and
these folks decide who gets a bridge or who gets a new ferry based on a
Ocracoke’s RPO is the Albemarle Regional Planning
Organization (ARPO), which has $32 million per year to cover all
infrastructure costs in the 10 eastern counties that compose this
The ARPO on April 27 agreed to wait to see if
Cook’s and Tine’s bills pass, said Bill Rich, Hyde County manager, who
attended the meeting, and if neither pass, the tolling of the
Hatteras ferry looms.
McClees in an interview said it is time for
islanders to write to members of the Senate Transportation Committee as
to their positions on this subject.
“We like to hear what’s going on,” Tine said. “We like to hear from our constituents.”
McClees said constituents can write the same letter, but they should be sent individually to the senators.
Constituents also can call legislators’ offices and voice their opinion, or drop each senator a post card with their message.
Contact information on all of the state
legislators can be found at www.ncleg.net, and all of the legislators’
emails follow the same convention, such as for Warren Daniel, who is a
co-chair of the committee: [email protected].
The other standing Senate Transportation
Committee members are as follows: Bill Rabon, co-chairman; Warren
Daniel, co-chairman, Kathy Harrington,
vice-chairman; Wesley Meredith, co-chairman. Members: Jim Davis,
Joel D. M. Ford, Rick Gunn, Ralph Hise, Joyce Krawiec, Paul A. Lowe
Jr., Gladys Robinson, Erica Smith-Ingram and Tommy Tucker.
(Reprinted with permission from The Ocracoke Observer. For more news and features about Ocracoke, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com.)