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.
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.