Opinion

They fixed it! Threat of toll on Hatteras ferry off the table 

The Swan Quarter ferry, viewed from a helicopter, chugs to Ocracoke. Photo by C. Leinbach

The Swan Quarter ferry, viewed from a helicopter, chugs to Ocracoke. Photo by C. Leinbach

Editor’s note July 10, 2016: a correction regarding the amount of  funding for maintenance has been corrected.

A toll on the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry has been a possibility for the last several years.

This free ride since the 1960s has been a major benefit for the Ocracoke community and, apparently, a major sticking point to some outside our small area.

We won’t enumerate the many good reasons why this route should remain free. We don’t begrudge folks crossing multi-million dollar toll-free bridges or snow removal in the mountains.

The good news is that the legislature in June successfully kept the Hatteras Ferry free and did something equally impressive: They approved an annual $4 million for ferry replacement and $6 million this year for maintenance.

We hope this ends calls for a toll on the Hatteras ferry since finding money to fund new vessels was the reason for the continued jockeying to enact a toll.

We hope the folks at the NC Ferry Division are as pleased with this as we are.

This news can’t come soon enough, and we hope the Ferry Division will move with alacrity to purchase a new vessel between Hatteras and Ocracoke and fix the old ones since, of late, more and more vessels have experienced maintenance issues, delaying both the traveling public and islanders.

The legislature also approved money to match a federal grant for a trial run with passenger ferry service for Ocracoke.

Back in October, Paul Tine, our House representative (U-Kitty Hawk), had said in a community meeting about, yet again, another attempt to get a toll on our lifeline approved, “Let us try to fix this in the short session.” 

And we say, “Bravo!” to Tine, John Torbett (R-Gaston) and Phil Shepard (R-Onslow) for accomplishing this impressive feat of bipartisan statesmanship.

In the last few years, principally Tine, Torbett and also Hyde County Manager Bill Rich worked tirelessly to convince their colleagues in the House and the Senate to view the ferries as part of the highway system.

These players deserve our thanks–for all of this hard work and also for bringing a cadre of representatives to mainland Hyde in January where they could see the rural nature of the county and the ferry docks for themselves.

If there is a bit of sadness to this political year it is that Paul Tine decided not to run for a third term in office. He has been an effective advocate for Ocracoke and eastern North Carolina.

This election year, our region is one of the few in the state that have both the state House and Senate seats at play.

So many areas have safe seats (owing to redistricting) –the incumbents are either unopposed or are not in danger of losing.

The November election is around the corner, and it is vital that islanders become familiar with the four candidates seeking to represent Ocracoke in Raleigh.

The Ocracoke Observer has provided coverage on issues and candidates will continue to do so. This information is available on our website, ocracokeobserver.com.

Lastly, several sources familiar with the General Assembly have said the legislators do read and consider letters and emails.

The efforts of those islanders who did contact them recently to support Tine and Torbett’s efforts with the ferry system did indeed have an impact. It shows that voicing your opinion does matter.

We urge you to thank those in office and continue to share your views with them and the candidates. 

While we hope the ferry toll issue is gone for good, we recommend vigilance.