Raleigh, N.C. — In a late-night 106-2 vote, House lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to prohibit the state from charging tolls on its ferries.
The measure, House Bill 1234, essentially mirrors a provision that was contained in the House's budget. With the budget now in negotiations, said co-sponsor Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, "we felt it necessary to have a stand-alone bill."
"Ferries to those of us on the coast are moving bridges," said sponsor Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan. "They are needed to get people from one place to another."
"If there were bridges that had to be built, the cost of those bridges would be enormous and would pale in comparison to the efficiency of transporting people by ferry," Steinburg said.
Asked the cost of repealing the tolls, Torbett said, "You're talking about $2 million on a good year."
The bill would replace that money with an appropriation from the state Highway Fund instead.
Three of North Carolina's seven ferries are currently tolled: Swan Quarter to Ocracoke, Cedar Island to Ocracoke, and Southport to Fort Fisher.
The ban on tolls would take effect as soon as the measure becomes law.
A 2011 statute imposing tolls on all state ferries was vigorously opposed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue, who refused to enforce it, and it was eventually beaten back by coastal lawmakers and residents, who have fought the tolls ever since.
The measure now goes to the Senate.