Coastal residents voice opposition to ferry tolls at meeting

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 09:24 AM.

Responding to a General Assembly mandate to increase ferry revenue to $5 million a year, the N.C. DOT is preparing to either increase or add tolls to five ferry routes: Southport-Fort Fisher; Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch; Cedar Island-Ocracoke; Swan Quarter-Ocracoke; and Bayview-Aurora.

Under the new rate schedule, some routes, including the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch route, will be charged for the first time, with a one-way fare of $4 for the typical passenger vehicle and $1 for each passenger. A $150 annual commuter pass would be available.

“I don’t think there should be a charge for any of them,” said Minnesott Beach resident Josh Potter, who uses the ferry to get to church and the grocery. “It’s a regressive approach to raising revenue.”

Randell Woodruff of Washington, N.C., noted the long distance between the Raleigh meeting and the coastal communities affected.

“Unfortunately many of the people that are going to be affected by this are unable to drive to Raleigh to be here tonight,” Woodruff said. “We feel like we’re being punished by our geography. Hopefully our legislative leaders will listen to us and understand that this is not a toll. This is an additional tax that our residents are being forced to pay.”

Other hearings have been held in coastal areas, and another is planned for 7 p.m. Monday at Pamlico Community College.

State Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, said before the meeting that he hoped there were other alternatives to increasing tolls. Iler, who did not attend the meeting, said he’d like to see a moratorium on the increases to buy time to study options, such as incorporating the ferry system into a tourism and marketing package.

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