Beachgoers taking day trips to Ocracoke may be able to leave their cars behind starting next year.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to build a passenger ferry that will operate between Hatteras and Ocracoke Village. The ferry will be built this year and be delivered by the end of April, according to DOT.
The new ferry will offer an alternative to the car ferries that connect Hatteras and Ocracoke and should reduce summer congestion, said Tim Hass, a spokesperson for the transportation department’s ferry division.
“This is a solution to a problem that we’ve seen on Hatteras for a few years,” he said.
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Visitors to Ocracoke reach the island by car ferries that depart from Hatteras, Swan Quarter and Cedar Island. But in the summer, those ferries get jammed with vacationers, causing backups at the ferry docks that deter some travelers and cost Ocracoke tourism business.
The new ferry will be tailored to travelers taking day trips to Ocracoke, Hass said. It will be able to hold 98 passengers at a time, and they will be able to reserve a departure time in advance to avoid the long wait. To handle the cars they’ll leave behind, additional parking will be built in Hatteras, Hass said.
The ferry will take beachgoers into Ocracoke Village, rather than the northern end of the island, which is 15 miles away. The trip will take an hour and 10 minutes, Hass said, though other details, such as the fare and schedule, have yet to be determined.
From Ocracoke Village, Hass said tourists will be able to rent bikes and golf carts or take a shuttle provided by Hyde County.
“We think this will really help get the day trippers to where they want to go,” he said. “And people who do take their cars will not have to wait as long.”
The $4.15 million contract to build the catamaran-style ferry was awarded to Armstrong Marine, Inc., a company based in Washington state that operates a shipyard in Swansboro. Most of the contract was paid for by a federal grant.
Sam Killenberg: 919-829-4582