North Carolina’s popular ferry service could better maintain its fleet and improve service to customers, thanks to a federal grant the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division (NCDOT) received this past week.
The North Carolina Ferry Division will receive a $400,000 Federal Transit Administration grant to study the possibility of designing and building a second maintenance facility where state crews could perform in-water maintenance so boats could be returned to service quicker. The Ferry Division will provide a $100,000 match to fund the study.
Currently, the NCDOT Ferry Division has one maintenance facility, the Manns Harbor Shipyard in Dare County. The planning study will explore the conceptual site design for a larger, better-equipped depot-level maintenance facility at the Cherry Branch Terminal in Craven County.
“The shipyard has limited capacity and creates challenges in meeting the Ferry Division’s needs for required regular maintenance and emergency repairs to vessels,” said Jed Dixon, the division’s interim director. “Establishing a second facility would allow for timely maintenance and continued rehabilitation of the fleet. This would make the ferry system more resilient and productive, and help us get boats back in service faster so we can better serve our customers.”
A second facility could also support the local marine industries and student trades training, as there is a robust workforce in central coastal North Carolina, Dixon said.
The North Carolina grant was part of $220 million in grants the FTA announced this week, as part of an effort in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernize the nation’s ferry systems. North Carolina was awarded a grant through the FTA’s Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program, which provides competitive funding to states for ferry service in rural areas. A total of 13 grants were awarded Thursday through the rural program and the agency’s passenger ferry grant program.