Coastal residents voice opposition to ferry tolls at meeting

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A ferry on the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch route approaches the landing after a crossing of the Neuse River.

Havelock News file photo
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 09:24 AM.

N.C. Department of Transportation officials heard from a number of coastal citizens Monday concerned that toll hikes on ferries could limit school activities, slow commerce, tax hard-working commuters and bust the tourism industry.

“Everyone who understands the ferry system understands this is the beginning of the end for the ferry system as we know it,” Oriental resident Greg Piner said during a public hearing in Raleigh.

Of the roughly 50 people in attendance from coastal communities, most wore stickers with the signature sign of protest, a red circle with a line drawn through the words “no ferry tax.”

Though the ferries in the various communities serve different niche purposes, opponents of rate hikes – retired military personnel, business executives, school officials, tourism enthusiasts and others – became a band of brothers at the inland hearing, clapping and waving signs as people came to the podium to speak one after another proposing that tolls go away altogether.

No one spoke in favor of the rate increases.

Besides those who can’t afford to pay the increased fares, Piner said a number of people will refuse to ride out of “pure spite” if rates spike as proposed on July 1 – as another opponent put it, “dead in the middle of the tourism season.”

Seconding a comment made several times over, Piner said he hoped this was the tipping point “to do something really good, which is to do away with all tolls on all ferries.”

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