A bi-partisan group of state lawmakers has introduced a bill that would allow for sponsorship of ferry lines along the North Carolina coast.
Last year the state’s seven ferry lines ran a deficit of more than $30 million. The ferry system is consistently in the red, and fuel costs are only making it worse. Leaders have discussed raising fares, but a new bill would avoid that by seeking about $4 million in sponsorship from large corporations. Think the Pepsi-Cola line instead of Hatteras-Ocracoke.
Republican Charles Jeter of Huntersville says sponsorship could also provide better services. "Part of this would be allowing us and the DOT ferry system to go out and say ‘OK Sprint, Cingular, whomever it is, we want you to provide wireless on these boats and we’re going to provide you with sponsorship,” Jeter says. "Our goal is to raise in excess of the $3.9 million that would’ve netted out had we stuck with the planned tolling avenue. And I feel confident we can get to that number."
Jeter says sponsorships could include naming rights for the routes, boats or even facilities on the mainland. He also says that he is open to raising the fares of ferry lines used predominantly by tourists, but believes increased fares should not be passed on to people going to work every day. North Carolina’s ferry system has seven lines and is the second largest ferry system in the country.