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Hatteras-Ocracoke passenger ferry to commence service in May

The Ocracoke Express is expected to begin transporting passengers between the villages of Hatteras and Ocracoke in May, Catherine Peele, NCDOT Ferry Division spokeswoman, told the Southern Albemarle Association on Jan. 17.

The object is “to get more tourists to Ocracoke.”

The 96-passenger, high-speed ferry, being constructed by US Boat Builders in Swansboro, will not change the schedules of the vehicle ferries that traverse Hatteras Inlet 48 times daily, Peele said.

The passenger ferry is to relieve vehicle ferry congestion stemming from their increased use and longer runs. Hatteras Inlet is getting wider as the shorelines on both sides recede, Peele explained, and sediment buildup in the inlet forces ferries to follow a course much farther inside Pamlico Sound.

After a 70-minute ride from Hatteras village, passenger ferry users can stroll, rent a bicycle or golf cart, or ride a tram from Silver Lake terminal throughout Ocracoke village, Peele said.

The terminals and parking lots at both ends of the route are being substantially upgraded to accommodate the expected influx of passenger ferry users, she explained.

As for the vehicle ferry fleet, the Rodanthe, capable of carrying 38-40 vehicles, is expected to come into service this year, and two more like it are planned for later, Peele said.

Peele is environmental program supervisor in the N.C. Department of Transportation’s ferry division.

The Southern Albemarle Association meeting in the Vernon James Center near Plymouth was attended by 49 representatives of its service area of Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties. The organization, supported by county governments, has been promoting better transportation since 1935.