NC Ferry Division celebrates 75 years, christens Ocracoke Express

Published 9:39 am Sunday, May 22, 2022

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The North Carolina Department of Transportation celebrated 75 years of providing ferry service across the state’s eastern waterways on Monday, May 16, 2022.

And the department’s newest addition to its fleet, the Ocracoke Express passenger ferry, was christened and cheered at the Hatteras village ferry terminal.

Speakers gratefully acknowledged the ferry service and the people who make it run.

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On seven routes, state ferries provide access to special places, meet emergencies and provide a lifeline.

North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Eric Boyette headlined the event and recognized the division’s employees who are “the heart of the system.”

Said Boyette, “it is a lifeline.” The state’s ferries make a safe, reliable system providing a critical link.

He reminded the staff of the emergencies endured. When the Oregon Inlet bridge was hit by a barge in 1990, an emergency ferry route was established that transported 85,000 vehicles from Bodie Island to Hatteras Island across Oregon Inlet. For Hurricanes Isabel, Irene and Sandy, the emergency route between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point was opened. After Dorian, the ferries were up and running within 24 hours of the hurricane passing.

Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Julie White praised Harold Thomas, Ferry Division director, and recognized the Ferry Division leadership team.

She said, “They are incredible professionals who have been asked to ensure continuous operations through COVID, to keep an aged fleet operational beyond its traditional lifetime, to understand and respond to Mother Nature’s ever-changing channels, to keep our facilities operational while they are battered by hurricanes and manage a team of over 500 to accomplish it all.”

Members of the Ferry Division leadership team recognized and thanked were Jed Dixon, Keith Stegall, Lance Winslow, Cat Peele, Jeremy Remme, Eric Sedlacek, Brian Doliber, Mary Willis, Kate Trimble and superintendents Timmy Jennette and Brad Gurganus.

Ferry Division director Harold Thomas saluted the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and National Park Service, which work with the ferry division to make sure ferry services continue.

Also speaking were Robert L. Outten, Dare County manager, and Kris Noble, Hyde County manager. Noble christened the Ocracoke Express.

After the speeches, a celebratory cake was served. The Ocracoke Express was opened for tours.

Passenger service between Hatteras village and Ocracoke’s Silver Lake started Tuesday, May 17, 2022.