RALEIGH -- A new state budget plan could cause increases in the ferry tolls. The majority of the routes could see toll fare increases begin next month if the current budget proposal is approved.
The increases were proposed last year, but Governor Bev Perdue issued an executive order stopping them. Now, the tables have turned again, and many commuters are worried about what toll the higher tolls will take on their finances.
Coastal resident Carol Emory uses the Fort Fisher ferry on a regular basis. "I use it two or three times a week," she shared. However, with an increase on many ferry tolls looming, she's already rethinking that habit. "Depending on how much they increase the prices, it might be cheaper for us to go 17 now," she said.
The current state budget proposal would overturn the governor's executive order which put a stop to last year's toll changes. In this year's plan, all but two routes would see increases. Some lawmakers, though, believe the move will do little to improve the state budget.
Representative Bill Cook said, "The ferry toll increase for all the routes is only 2.5 million dollars and our budget is 20 billion dollars."
Something else that has some lawmakers upset, is the fact that the House budget has the fee increases taking effect July 1. Senator Stan White, for one, said he thinks that's not enough time.
"Give these folks a year to get themselves back together and allow them not to have a toll," White said.
Jonathen Rhoades was visiting the area from Washington, D.C. and said he thinks even a small increase will cause problems.
"You're talking about a couple dollars here and there, back and forth, but in the long run, that's going to add up," Rhoades said.
Emory said she can sympathize with the state's position, but in her mind the money needs to come from somewhere else.
"I think it's going to decrease the amount of traffic going on the ferries, which might kind of counteract them raising the prices in the first place," said Emory.
The Ocracoke/Hatteras ferry and Knotts Island ferry are the only two that will still be free. The Cherry Branch/Minnesott Beach route will have one year before the increase is applied.
The exact amounts of the proposed increases are not yet set in stone.