Ferry Division, Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers Working to Clear Way for Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry to Return to Shorter Route Wednesday, May 01, 2013

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry Division, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working together to clear a safe way to return the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route to its original route. The ferries have been using an alternate route between the two terminals since Friday, Feb. 22, when the original route became too shallow for ferries to travel safely.

Test runs were conducted by the Ferry Division last Saturday over the short route that was dredged over the past two months by a Corps of Engineer’s contractor. Those test trips determined there are some issues that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of the passengers, crews and ferries. They include an indication that in three areas of the Hatteras Inlet, shifting sand has already started moving back into some of the dredged areas. That makes those areas unsafe for travel by ferry vessels, which need eight to nine feet of water depth.

Such shifting sand in the inlet has been an increasing problem for ferry travel in recent years, creating issues where they did not previously exist. This is partly due to the number of hurricanes and nor’easters that have hit the area. It was an overnight storm on January 18 that created the latest issue, and forced the suspension of the short route.

The Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for keeping the inlet channel clear, conducted underwater surveys of the affected areas on Tuesday. Those results are being reviewed to help determine as early as Thursday what course of action should be taken to open the short route as soon as possible. Some touchup dredging is an option, and the Corp is making preparations to be on scene as soon as possible. That would clear the way for using the shorter route by the third week of May.

The survey results could also indicate locations where a slight shift in the route would allow for safe passage of the ferries. That would require the Coast Guard to re-mark some navigational aids, which could get service back to the shorter route even earlier.

The Ferry Division plans to move ahead with starting its summer schedule on Tuesday, May 7 on the alternate route. That will add another 12 trips in each direction from both Hatteras and Ocracoke, bringing the number of trips to 32 a day from each terminal.

The schedule that will be in effect May 7 through Oct. 7, has daily trips out of Hatteras at 5, 6, 7 and 8 a.m., then every half hour between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., then 8, 9, 11 and midnight. Ocracoke departure times are at 4:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., then every half hour from 9:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., then 9, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.

For more information travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.

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