North Carolina Ferry System Gains Marine Highway Project Designation
The North Carolina Ferry System (NCFS) has been designated by the federal Maritime Administration as a Marine Highway Project, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced Thursday
The designation, a first for the state, will allow the ferry system to apply to the Marine Highway Grant Program, which awards federal funding to modernize vessels and improve infrastructure at terminals. This year’s grant program awarded $9.7 million to marine highway projects across the country.
“This historic designation will enhance the ability of the North Carolina Ferry System to connect communities and promote economic growth with an efficient, effective and sustainable water-based transportation option,” Secretary Chao said.
Marine highways are navigable waterways that can be used as alternate options to traditional transportation methods. America’s Marine Highway Program involves 35 other projects nationwide to bolster local economies by creating and preserving jobs on U.S. waterways. Marine Highway Projects are chosen for their importance to local economies, travel times and public safety. By expanding the use of navigable, cost-effective waterways, communities are able to save in vehicle costs and travel time, ultimately improving economic efficiency, public safety, and security.
“We are delighted to be included in the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program,” said Ferry Division Director Harold Thomas. “This designation will allow us to potentially acquire funding for much-needed projects throughout our system that would otherwise require state assistance.”
Located on the M-95 Marine Highway route, the NCFS is an underutilized, expansive network of navigable waterways that connects eastern North Carolina to rural communities of the Outer Banks’ barrier islands. The ferry system serves as a lifeline, carrying supplies, equipment, and other consumable goods to these islands
This century-old, state-run ferry system is the second largest in the nation, currently transporting approximately 800,000 vehicles along seven regular routes annually. Running 22 ferries that transport 9,000 trailer trucks yearly, the NCFS has reduced almost 200,000 miles of landside traffic. The service is also an economic boon to the region, generating $18.1 million in vehicle cost savings, $13.9 million in travel time savings, and $8.3 million in safety benefits.