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Press release -

Federal grants, including $2.4 million announced this week, will help pay for a new Ocracoke ferry and improvements to its Manns Harbor shipyard.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it will help fund an enclosed paint building at the Manns Harbor Maintenance Facility , said Jack Cahoon, interim director of the state Ferry Division.

The new storage building is expected to be finished in August. The $5 million project also included a 90-foot extension of each of three rails behind the main building so that they can hold longer boats.

The rails, called platens, were made to hold older 150-foot-long boats, Cahoon said. Newer ferries, though, can be as long as 220 feet. The longer boats can still fit on the platens, he said, but no other boats can get past them.

The state's 22 ferries, a tugboat, two tug tenders, a 150-foot dredge and three barges are serviced at the shipyard.

When the storage building is completed, the old storage unit on the side of the main building will be torn down. In its place, the indoor paint facility will be constructed, allowing for better environmental protection as well as reliable work space during bad weather. The division will have to wait for $5 million to $7 million in additional funding to build that building, which will be about 100 feet wide and 180 feet long.


"We'll probably remove the old building and go as far as we can to get ready for the paint building," Cahoon said.

The ferry division also has received a $2.2 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation to begin plans for a new $12 million sound-class ferry to operate in the Pamlico Sound between Ocracoke Island and Swan Quarter and Ocracoke and Cedar islands.

The 220-foot ferry, which can carry as many as 300 passengers and 50 vehicles, will replace one of the older sound-class boats, Cahoon said. The Pamlico and the Silver Lake ferries that run the route are both 41 years old.

Riders on the 2- to 2-1/2 -hour ferry trip will not be transported on the new vessel any time soon.

The work will take 18 months, Cahoon said, " if we get the money."

The 40-minute Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry route in Hatteras Inlet, with seven Kinnakeet class ferries and three double-enders, is the busiest in the system. Cahoon said he has noticed a slowdown lately, perhaps because of high fuel prices. In June, there were about 1,000 fewer vehicles crossing on the Hatteras Inlet ferry.

"Since Memorial Day, it's been down, down, down," he said.

Ferries transport 2.5 million passengers and 1.1 million vehicles annually to and from the Outer Banks.


Rushie
 
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