By Rob Morris on January 5, 2012
Emergency ferries provided a vital link to Hatteras Island after Hurricane Irene washed out N.C. 12, but the operation exposed shortcomings, County Manager Bobby Outten told the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.
Problems with parking, stacking, loading ramps and room for ferries to turn around surfaced during the six weeks of emergency runs.
“It impacted us significantly in our recovery efforts,” Outten said.
The state Department of Transportation would need to use a small piece of county land on the Stumpy Point side for employee parking to free up space for other uses.
It would also need permission to dredge county land encroaching on the entrance to the terminal on the Rodanthe side as part of a widening and deepening project, Outten said.
One concern is that widening the road to the Rodanthe terminal for stacking lanes too far to the south would affect the local community center property.
Outten suggested the possibility of a paved parking lot for the center that could double as stacking lanes in an emergency.
“It may be something that could benefit the community center for the part of the year or years when we don’t have storms,” he said.
Plans might also entail moving the recycling center on the Rodanthe side to make room for stacking lanes and to get it away from the wind field of the helicopter landing pad.
Parking on both sides would allow pedestrians to ride the ferries, Outten said. Additional stacking lanes would keep cars from backing up onto U.S. 264 on the Stumpy Point side.
Other plans call for using hydraulic instead of electric lifts, adding ramps so that riders could load and unload simultaneously and building piers for docking.
Commissioners said they want to make sure residents are aware of the details well before work starts so they have an opportunity to weigh in.
Outten said the state wants to do as much as state emergency funding will allow.
The board made no decision. The county will ask the state to come back with more detailed plans for the board and the public to see.
Commissioners will have to formally approve use of the Stumpy Point land for parking and dredging county property on the Rodanthe side.
Chairman Warren Judge urged that the state thoroughly explore adding stacking lanes to the north rather than the south in Rodanthe before submitting a plan. He said past experience suggests that once plans are drawn up, the state is less inclined to change them.
“The only good news on this one is they can’t do if we don’t let them,” Outten said. “We do have some control.”