Sundae Horn
Think of the views you'll have for six hours!
Think of the views you'll have for six hours!

Ocracoke needs you to go to Swan Quarter and back on Monday to tell NC legislators how important the ferries are to the island's people and economy.

The NC House Select Committee on Transportation Planning is coming (fairly close) to us – but we have to make a little effort and meet them in Swan Quarter. 

This is an important Committee addressing all of the issues we are facing on ferry tolling and funding for new ferries (to replace the fleet, which isn't getting any younger.)

These members of the NC legislature will already be in mainland Hyde County for an economic development meeting, and then, thanks to Bill Rich, they will re-convene at the Swan Quarter Ferry Dock to hear input from Ocracokers – us!.

If you're not sure about the ferry concerns, come anyway! OCBA members will offer some talking points and explanation as needed.

The Chairman of this Committee, John Torbett (who has previously been all the way across the sound to Ocracoke, where he was wined and dined by Ocracokers at the Flying Melon), wants to ELIMINATE ALL FERRY TOLLS. What!?! He thinks the tourism dollars pouring into the state coffers by the visitors lured to the romantic notion of ferries and islands and scenic byways should be enough to justify the state footing the bill. A win-win? If you think so, too, let him know!

Rep. Torbett and the rest of the Committee need to hear directly from Ocracokers about how important the ferries are to our lives and to the economy of Ocracoke and Hyde County.

They need to hear our personal stories (doctor's appointments, taking kids to sports, etc.) and, even more importantly (to the powers that be in Raleigh), the economic impact the ferries and the visitors who ride them have on Ocracoke and Hyde County. These legislators are going to see and board the ferry, and hear what we have to say. (We're going to sweeten the deal for them with some local fig cake, too.)

Thanks to Leslie Lanier for the poster!
Thanks to Leslie Lanier for the poster!

With our input, they will be able to go back to Raleigh and make our arguments for us with the other legislators.

At the very least, OCBA hopes to achieve 2 things: 1. Keep the Hatteras toll-free, and make that decision long-lasting so Ocracoke does not have to fight this fight every year or so. 2. Put the funding for ferry replacement back in the general NCDOT budget, and take it out of the RPO allocations**. (For more information on that somewhat-complicated topic, see note below.) 3. And please, if you're feeling like Santa Claus, give us our short route to Hatteras back!

Here's the schedule:
Depart: 9:30 ferry from Ocracoke (walk on for $1 or catch a ride with someone with a car and go free!)

Arrive: 12:00 Swan Quarter Ferry Dock (we're not leaving the ferry dock area)

Speak and Meet: 12:00 - 1:00

Return: 1:00 ferry back to Ocracoke (with copious snacks and drinks provided by OCBA!)

*Let Sundae Horn know by 3pm Sunday if you are planning to ride along. She will bring snacks, drinks, and lunch fixin's for all. Feel free to bring something to share! No one wants to spend 6 hours eating vending machine food. Call or text 921-0283 or email to get on the feedlist.

**To take pressure off themselves for decision making, the state legislature created Regional Planning Organizations; Hyde County's RPO includes nine other Eastern NC counties. RPOs are allocated a certain amount of money each year, and ours has about $30 million to share among the ten counties. The money to replace old ferries currently comes from the RPO funding, which requires that the RPO set aside about $5 million or 1/6th of its budget just to replace ferries in Hyde County. The need for new ferries is an unfair burden to the RPO, and uses up all of Hyde County's share (and more) without addressing any other county transportation needs. Hyde County and OCBA would like to see ferry replacement get put back into the general NCDOT ferry division budget.