Ferry-toll fight continuesPublished 5:23pm Friday, March 28, 2014
An effort in the N.C. General Assembly to not impose any ferry tolls is supported by the three legislators who represent Beaufort County in the Legislature.
State Reps. Paul Tine, D-Dare County, and Michael Speciale, R-Craven County, and state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort County, made it clear Friday they oppose any new ferry tolls. Their message was delivered in a meeting with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to discuss legislative issues that could affect the county.
“The House leadership is promoting no new ferry tolls at all, I mean no ferry tolls at all — taking it off the entire system,” Tine said during the meeting which last about an hour. “If we’re going to solve our transportation funding problems through tolls all across our state, then we’d obviously look at those in our ferry system then. If they’re not going to solve it that way, we’re not going to do it that way.”
Tine said some state legislators — mostly from the Piedmont and western counties — have no problems with imposing new ferry tolls.
“I’ve met with the senator (Ron Rabin, D-Harnett County) that is a real problem on the Senate side, which continues. He said he’d talk with us. The speaker’s gone over to the governor’s office and asked for it to be put in the governor’s budget so that we have two of the three working in tandem. The House, transportation and appropriations (committees) and the speaker (of the House) are all for removing the ferry tolls,” Tine said.
Cook weighed in on the issue.
“On the Senate side, I’m working on a bill that would do pretty much what Paul is talking about, pretty much what the House is considering” Cook told the commissioners.
“To me, it’s sort of an equity issue. If you want to toll all the bridges in the west, OK, let’s toll all the ferries in the east,” Cook said.
Speciale said coastal legislators have some “allies in the west.”
Beaufort County is opposed to imposing new ferry tolls.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly mandated that new ferry acquisitions be funded through Strategic Transportation Initiative funding or by revenue-raising initiatives such as tolling, advertising and concessions. The General Assembly also mandated that all tolling increases be requested by the regional Rural Planning Organizations or Metropolitan Planning Organizations before being approved by the Board of Transportation.
In its December meeting, the Board of Transportation approved a tolling methodology which tolls routes by distance travelled and raises approximately $5 million a year for ferry replacement. This methodology includes the establishment of tolls on the Hatteras-Ocracoke, Currituck-Knotts Island, Bayview-Aurora and Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach routes, as well as increases in tolls on the Southport-Fort Fisher, Cedar Island-Ocracoke and Swan Quarter-Ocracoke routes. The proposed rate changes can be found on NCDOT’s Ferry website.
All money collected will go only toward new ferry vessels. After the public hearings, the RPOs/MPOs will decide whether to accept the toll changes.
For additional coverage of the meeting, see Sunday’s Washington Daily News.