An area transportation planning group went a step beyond saying no to proposed ferry tolls.

An area transportation planning group went a step beyond saying no to proposed ferry tolls.

Members of the transportation advisory committee of the Down East Rural Planning Organization said the General Assembly needs to look at the funding issue again and from a statewide perspective.

“We’re asking them to revisit the issue with a more equitable view,” said Atlantic Beach Mayor Trace Cooper, chairman of the DERPO group, which represents Onslow, Carteret, Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties.

Cooper said North Carolina’s ferries are as much a part of the state’s transportation system as the roads, bridges and other infrastructure across the state, and funding methods should be equitable.

The issue of raising an additional $5 million a year for the N.C. Ferry Division through either new or increased tolls for ferry use has been on the table for several years. Last year, legislators turned the decision regarding whether or not a ferry should be tolled to local transportation planning groups.

The Down East RPO faced a decision on whether or not to endorse a toll for the Cherry Branch-Minnesott ferry route. The proposed $3 one-way fare for the typical passenger vehicle would be put into a fund to help with purchases of new ferries.

The issue came up in discussions and the group chose to take no action, expressing its opposition.

A series of public hearings on the issue ended last week and Cooper said the committee knew what its decision would be.

“It was pretty clear they weren’t for tolling the ferry,” he said.

During the latest as well as previous public meetings on the issue, there has been widespread opposition to the ferry tolling plan, particularly new tolls for commuter routes.

Routes like Cherry Branch-Minnesott are highly used as a link between Pamlico and Craven counties, particularly for military and civilian commuters headed to and from work at Cherry Point.

“The ferry from Cherry Branch and Minnesott is a commuter ferry and I don’t see why it’s any different than anyone commuting to and from work on our roads,” Cooper said.

Regional transportation planning organizations are expected to consider the tolling issue for routes in their respective areas in March.

Jannette Pippin is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.