North Carolina’s Department of Transportation has signed a contract that will give tourists a new way to reach Ocracoke Island: on foot.
The department signed a $4.15 million contract with Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., to build a 98-passenger ferry. Armstrong will build the catamaran-style vessel in Swansboro.
Starting next summer, the ferry will run between Hatteras and Silver Lake Harbor on Ocracoke, where passengers can continue by foot, bike or a new shuttle service.
The new vessel will supplement existing car ferries that jam Ocracoke with cars in summer. It will also eliminate the 14-mile drive from the ferry dock on Ocracoke’s northern end to the island village.
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Ocracoke businesses have complained that long waits for the car ferry from Hatteras have cost the island thousands of visitors and a lot of tourism revenue in recent years. At the peak of the tourism season, Raleigh’s News & Observer has reported, cars have to wait up to three hours for a berth.
Sand built up on the original ferry route in 2013, forcing a detour that turned a 40-minute trip into an hour. DOT reduced daily departures, and the number of cars making the crossing dropped from 950,000 in 2008 to 700,000 in 2015.