SOUTHPORT -- The trip between the southern tips of New Hanover and Brunswick counties is about to get a lot less scenic -- at least for a few months.


The N.C. Department of Transportation closed the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry on Monday for three months to update ramp equipment at both ferry terminals.


According to the ferry division, contractors estimate the work should wrap up by early April.


The project, estimated to cost $3 million, will replace the aging cable-counterweight ramp system with a hydraulic system. A failure of the current ramp system on the Southport side shut down the route for five weeks in August and September.


“This improvement has been planned and in the works for about a year,” said ferry division spokesman Tim Hass last month in a release.


“This is something that had to happen,” he said, adding the new system should run smoother and be less prone to such accidental failures.


“We know the shutdown will be an inconvenience for commuters on that route, but it will result in more reliable ferry service in the long run,” said Harold Thomas, the ferry division’s director in the same release.


But at least in the short-term, the closure promises to be a major headache for the commuters and tourists who travel on the ferry, turning a relaxing 30-minute trip over the water into an hour-plus detour -- depending on traffic and the time of day -- to get to the other side of the Cape Fear River.


Nearly 200,000 vehicles make the Southport-Fort Fisher crossing each year, according to state statistics.


Commuter pass holders will automatically be credited with an extension to their passes after the route reopens.