Harbor Town ferry may make trial runs this fall

Published 6:07 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Columbia aldermen are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward a proposed four-week trial this fall of the proposed Harbor Town ferry between the Outer Banks and five towns along the Albemarle Sound.

The concept is aimed at increasing inland town tourism and community development, its proponents claim.

Published plans estimate $14 million first-year ferry service start-up and operation, plus another $7 million to upgrade harbor town waterfronts and tourist attractions.

Town manager Rhett White reported June 3 that Rep. Ed Goodwin (R-Chowan), a former ferry division director for NCDOT, has “found money to hire the Ocracoke-Hatteras passenger ferry in September” for daily round-trip excursions from the Outer Banks to Elizabeth City, Hertford, Edenton, Plymouth and Columbia.

“The towns have some hustling to do to make sure the riders have something to do once they step ashore,” White said.

The project organizing committee is asking each town to let its business owners know of the forthcoming ferry runs, White explained.

“We need to ask Scott [McLaughlin] to remove the finger piers” at his property location along Columbia’s boardwalk, White said.

Mayor James Cahoon asked about the role of Dare County, and how it would benefit, from the trial runs or the fully functioning proposal, suggesting that without Dare County’s involvement the project is less viable.

The Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners and the Elizabeth City City Council have both resolved that state transportation money should not be spent on the $14 million project.

Elizabeth City’s further participation will be based on the premise that Dare County approves the project’s design and takes part in its execution, the city’s resolution indicates.

Pasquotank and Elizabeth City officials also want to see feasibility and market research studies before committing money to the project.