Ride across Neuse River to remain free


A ferry arrives at the dock at Cherry Branch. New tolls that were scheduled to go into effect on the Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach route are not part of the state budget and have been eliminated.

Havelock News file photo
Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 08:42 AM.

Barring a last-minute change in the state budget, planned new tolls for the Minnesott Beach-Cherry Branch ferry are off the table.

Language in the proposed state budget, which could be passed this week by the General Assembly, returns $5 million to the Ferry Division budget. That was the amount the ferry division was ordered in 2011 to raise via increased and new tolls.

The legislation puts future tolling proposals in local hands, stating that a written resolution requesting tolls on a local route would be needed from the area’s transportation planning organization.

Those opposing the tolls, such as Greg Piner of Oriental, don’t think that is likely. Piner and Oriental Commissioner Larry Summers have been outspoken opponents of tolls through the grassroots group Don’t Tax Our Highway.

“Most obvious is that the people closest to the ferries understand the economic impacts and that tolling is not good for the area,” Piner said. “It looks like the bottom line is it takes decision-making on tolling our local ferries from the state to the local level, which has to be a positive.”

Individuals, along with coastal counties, have opposed the tolling since it was ordered in 2011. It was later the subject of a moratorium by then-Gov. Bev Perdue, before the General Assembly again ordered the tolls go forward.

A citizens’ petition and call-in drive put up a roadblock to the planned tolls, which were scheduled to take effect July 1. Had the tolls be implemented, a one-way ride across the Neuse River would have cost $4 for the typical passenger vehicle, with an additional $1 fee per vehicle passenger.

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