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Coastal counties, commuters balk at planned ferry tolls

Posted February 27, 2012

N.C. ferry
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— At least two North Carolina counties plan to hire a lobbyist to convince state lawmakers to rescind tolls that go into effect in April on five coastal ferry routes.

The 2011-12 state budget mandated that the state Department of Transportation raise $5 million a year through new ferry tolls by the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Lawmakers exempted the Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry from a toll because they said there had to be a free way to get off Ocracoke Island. They also exempted the Knotts Island-Currituck route because it regularly carries school buses to eliminate adding an hour onto bus routes.

Area residents who use the Bayview, Cedar Island, Cherry Branch, Southport and Swan Quarter ferries aren't so lucky. Tolls on those routes begin or increase April 1, although the DOT hasn't yet set rates.

DOT officials laid out four options during public hearings in recent weeks, with rates ranging from $4 to $33 on the various routes.

Boards of Commissioners in Pamlico and Beaufort counties have set aside up to $40,000 between them for a lobbyist, and Hyde County commissioners are expected to vote next week on joining the effort.

Ferry passengers also have started a petition to persuade lawmakers to roll back the planned increases.

The Bayview ferry is routinely packed during morning and afternoon rush hours with people commuting to and from work. Many work at a phosphate mine in Aurora.

"I take this ferry to work twice a day, five times a week," William Cherry said. "(A toll) is going to put a burden on my family."

N.C. ferry Tolls may push some off ferries onto highways

The ferry, which like Cherry Branch has been free, could start charging $10 to $12 per vehicle each way.

"It'd be $20 round-trip, and if I don't take the ferry, I've got 75 miles one way," said Joan Seyler, who was gathering petition signatures from ferry riders one recent afternoon.

"I feel so strongly. It is a very unfair tax," Seyler said.

Many riders said the ferry system is an extension of the state highway system and note that they already pay taxes for transportation.

Lawmakers argue that, because the highway system is primarily paid for through the gas tax, drivers aren't burning gas by riding on the ferries, so they aren't paying their fair share for the transportation system.

Frustrated ferry riders said the tolls might force them to switch to the roads.

"(My truck) is on its last legs, but it still gets 26 miles per gallon. Do the math," Cherry said. "I can drive around cheaper than I can ride the ferry."

9 Comments

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  • alwayslovingu30 Feb 28, 2012

    Ferries are not going to bother lots of us any motre.since they passed A bill to make every one take A class to dirve on the beach for fishing at ocracoke island.3 familys will never visit them on ocracoke island again.just dumb politics

  • Vietnam Vet Feb 28, 2012

    I'm sorry, but I fail to see why every taxpayer in the state of North Carolina should have to pay for these workers' commute. No one but myself is paying for my commute to work. Times have changed people! You need to pay your way! "No such thing as a free lunch."
    There is another option for these folks to get to work, but I suspect that it will cost them more than the new ferry tolls will cost, with the price of gas rising...again...

  • betty1 Feb 28, 2012

    "They also exempted the Knotts Island-Currituck route because it regularly carries school buses to eliminate adding an hour onto bus routes."

    Ridiculous. Do they think we believe that? If you're going to charge a toll for the other ferries, charge a toll for this one too - I think you can pick out the orange school buses and let them ride for free. It's the special interests at the Outer Banks helping the tourists, while the people working for minimum wage in Beaufort and Pamlico counties are going to feel the brunt of this. I guarantee you that no person is going to not go vacation at the Outer Banks because of a ferry toll. We're hurting down east, don't hurt us more with outrageous ferry tolls.

  • doubletap357 Feb 28, 2012

    Perhaps full time residents should pay a discounted price based on the fact that they are more frequent users than other riders.

  • dumbhick Feb 28, 2012

    Privatize or eliminate the ferries where there's an alternative route. The needs of the few do not outweigh the needs of the many.

  • hp277 Feb 27, 2012

    There should be no exemptions from the tolls - all ferries should be included - plus the Bonner Bridge.

  • luckn4u2 Feb 27, 2012

    Unbelievable,lawmakers say you dont pay gas tax when you ride the ferry,duh,what do i drive to get home when i get off the ferry..

  • awomnsptofview Feb 27, 2012

    I don't have a problem with the toll...but the amount is ridiculous. Way too high.

  • itsnotmeiswear Feb 27, 2012

    So do the ferry riders think we should all pay for their convenience? Fuel is expensive in a car and a ferry.