Budget shortfall means fewer NC toll ferry trips

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

RALEIGH (AP) ó State budget shortfalls mean that toll ferry trips from the mainland to Ocracoke Island off North Carolina’s coast will not be expanded as usual for summer travelers.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Thursday that the Department of Transportation will keep the ferries on the winter schedule instead of adding runs from mid-April through the summer.
Ocracoke will have four daily round trips from Cedar Island in Carteret County and two daily trips from Swan Quarter in Hyde County. In the past, each ferry run has added two trips a day to handle summer travelers.
Officials said the cuts came after Coast Guard rest rules that would have required 79 additional workers. Officials said the DOT is facing a $300 million budget cut and can’t afford the additional personnel.
Ocracoke businesses are likely to feel an effect from the 40 percent cut in service.
“Ocracoke is a unique place, because we have access only by ferry,” said Chip Stevens, who owns the 36-room Blackbeard’s Lodge. “It would be similar to picking any town in North Carolina and saying we’re going to close the roads down for 40 percent of the time.”
Gov. Beverly Perdue’s proposed 2009-2010 budget seeks money to hire the additional employees ó 74 ship crew members and five shipyard employees ó for the ferry division.
Jack Cahoon, the state ferry director, said if legislators approve the money the usual summer schedule could resume in 2010.
Stevens said many of his guests use the Cedar Island ferry. With fewer ferry runs, people will have to drive to the Outer Banks to catch a free ferry across Hatteras Inlet, he said.
Officials aren’t curtailing the ferry runs from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke.
The ferry division also said crossing schedules would be changed for runs across the Neuse, Pamlico and Cape Fear rivers.
óóóOn the Net:
Ferry Division: http://www.ncferry.org
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com