By Connie Leinbach
The NCDOT Ferry Division will hold a public meeting on the passenger ferry study from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, in the Ocracoke Community Center.
While more details on the content of this meeting will be released closer to the date, ferry officials at a July 13 meeting on the island said that the study is done and data results should be available.
Ed Goodwin, Ferry Division chief, also said that, should the department decide to test passenger ferries from Hatteras to Ocracoke Village, they would be looking to rent a boat and also to create a public-private partnership.
“One to two passenger ferries would alleviate the pressure (at the Hatteras ferry docks,)” he said.
The decision to build (a ferry) must be made by September,” he added. “We’ll have several critical decision points coming up.”
Under consideration would be a landing site, places to stage passengers, parking and transportation for the passengers.
However, the chance of having a trial passenger ferry next year is “a little slim,” he said, since it takes about eight months to build a new ferry. Moreover, he said, planning for the ferry division’s future is a 20-year-plan.
As for the long route that’s currently the official route between Hatteras and Ocracoke, Goodwin said an NCDOT survey team was surveying the long route to determine if some of its length can be shortened to lessen the crossing time.
The surveying is being paid for by some contingency money left over from the $300,000 allocated for the passenger study by Volkert Inc. of Raleigh, said Jed Dixon, deputy Ferry Division director.
Goodwin said a section of the long route has already changed since the last time he rode the ferry in June.
“Some places in the channel are changing,” Dixon added. “Some of the aids to navigation will have to change.”
The Coast Guard, whose job it is to place markers, or aids to navigation, along waterway routes, are doing that, he also said.
As for the Hatteras ferry, Dixon noted that traffic numbers are better this summer than last year, and while the stacking lanes have been full, he thought the longest wait time is probably 90 minutes.
“We’re getting parking lots full,” he said, “but we’re getting them out,” Dixon said.
The NC Ferry Division has a created a video on the ferry system. The possibility of a forthcoming Hatteras/Ocracoke passenger ferry is mentioned.