Vehicle ferry unlikely for Sandy Island

Coast RTA officials presented cost projections to a group of Sandy Island stakeholders today and things do not look promising for a vehicle ferry.

In December of 2010 the S.C. Department of Transportation announced that a ferry had been awarded to Coast RTA to use for transporting residents to and from the island.

But today, officials said the costs associated with transporting that ferry to the area and upgrading the current docks to handle vehicles is around $400,000.

"It's the proverbial square peg in a round hole," said Myers Rollins, General Manager of Coast RTA. "Our recommendation is that we not further pursue the car ferry."

The estimation of transporting the vehicle ferry from its current location in Etowah County, Ala., to Georgetown County is between $48,000 to $55,000, said George Osborne, a planner for Coast RTA.

Osborne said the cost for upgrading the infrastructure at the landings on the mainland and on the island to accommodate the vehicle ferry were around $300,000 to $340,000.

And Rollins said those upgrades would take at least a year to complete.

Rollins said he will meet with the members of the Coast RTA board and expects that they will reject the Etowah County ferry and pursue other options.

Rollins and Osborne presented information about the costs associated with a pontoon-style passenger only ferry.

The costs for transporting that kind of ferry and any upgrades to the docks are between $95,000 and $135,000.

But Rev. George Weathers, a leader of the Sandy Island community, said the residents of the island really would prefer a ferry that could take both passengers and vehicles.

"Those people are going to be very, very disappointed," Weathers said.

Coast RTA officals will meet with Sandy Island residents on April 9 to present the information to them and to get their input about the needs of the community.

Currently, Sandy Island is accessible only by boat and has no public transportation aside from a school ferry.

A public ferry for the island has been discussed for years, but those discussions stepped up after February 2009 when three people drowned after their boat capsized during a storm as they made their way back to the island one night.

For more on this story read Friday's edition of The Sun News.