Equitable solution needed
Published 2:44 pm Sunday, March 29, 2015
When it comes to ferry tolls, those who contend the state’s ferries are extensions of the state highway system and should not charge tolls to fund their operations but should use gas-tax revenue to fund ferry operations are on the right track.
Earlier this month, a bill filed in the state Senate calls for doing away with ferry tolls in the state — even eliminating those tolls already charged on several existing ferry routes.
Senate Bill 307, if passed and signed into law, also would appropriate $5 million annually from the state’s highway fund to the N.C. Ferry Division’s capital account. If enacted, the legislation would take effect July 1. The bill’s primary sponsors, Sen. Bill Cook, who represents the 1st District in the state Senate, and Sen. Norman Sanderson, who represents the 2nd District in the state Senate.
The ferry-toll issue has been around for years, but it again drew attention in 2011. Legislators who represent Beaufort County and other coastal counties oppose adding new ferry tolls, if not doing away with all ferry tolls.
“Even if all the ferry routes were tolled, it would not generate that much revenue when considering the cost of collecting the toll. There are several other alternatives to ferry tolling such as advertising or concession contracts that could make up for the lost in revenue,” Cook wrote in an email. “I will continue to advocate for responsible alternatives to ferry tolling on behalf of the constituents in Senate District 1. I am opposed to any type of a ferry tax, and I have been opposed to the institution of tolls or increasing tolls on all ferry routes in North Carolina since beginning my legislative career.”
Other legislators have a different view of the ferry system.
At least three Republicans in the state Senate want to privatize the state’s ferry system. Sens. Bill Rabon from Southport, Kathy Harrington of Gastonia and Wesley Meredith of Fayetteville filed a bill that states, “The General Assembly finds that the privatization of the North Carolina Ferry System would provide a more cost-effective service model for the citizens of the State.”
The idea of doing away with ferry tolls and appropriating $5 million annually for ferry system capital needs makes sense — and there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at privatization of the ferry system.
The solution, whatever it is, should be what’s best for eastern North Carolina and its residents who use the ferries to commute to and from work.