New Alaskan Way Viaduct report: Tunnel tolls up to $3.50?

Some new info out today from the Alaskan Way Viaduct project team. They’re out with a new report about the tunnel project’s projected cost, as well as potential tolls. The report is here; among the highlights, they say they’d charge different tolls for different times of day, potentially $3.50 during peak commute hours. Read on for the news release with toplines; the report’s also been summarized by our partners at the Seattle Times. (One of its points, the new alignment for the tunnel’s south end, was reported during the South Portal Working Group meeting covered here last month.)

Today WSDOT released an updated cost estimate and tolling study for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. This report, requested by the Legislature, shows that the cost estimate to replace the viaduct remains within its $3.1 billion budget, and that it is feasible to generate $400 million in toll funding for the replacement.

*Updated cost estimate shows viaduct replacement remains within budget

*Last year, when the legislature endorsed a bored tunnel as its preferred option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, they directed WSDOT to provide updated cost estimates for the viaduct replacement, including the proposed bored tunnel. After extensive cost and risk workshops, value engineering and design changes, we released the updated estimate this week.

We determined that the cost estimate to replace the viaduct remains within the $3.1 billion replacement budget, which includes $2.4 billion raised from existing state and federal sources and no more than $400 million raised from tolling the proposed bored tunnel. An additional $300 million is committed from the Port of Seattle.

The estimated cost for the bored tunnel increased by $60 million, to $1.96 billion; this increase, however, was offset by savings elsewhere, including design improvements for the south end viaduct replacement. Changes made to the proposed tunnel’s design in December, which included new north and south portal locations; resulting in a lengthening of the tunnel, with an overall increase of 640 feet. These changes also addressed significant risks identified during our estimating process. For example, we moved the south end of the tunnel away from Pioneer Square to reduce the impact to this historic neighborhood and also reduce the potential need to reinforce older structures during construction. A better understanding of these risks gives us opportunities early in the project to manage or reduce them, and thus keep a tight rein on costs.

*New study shows tolls could help fund proposed bored tunnel

*As we updated the viaduct replacement’s cost estimate, the legislature also asked us to determine the potential for tolls to contribute to construction funding. We examined five toll scenarios, with low, medium and high toll rates, that would toll the proposed bored tunnel and, potentially, the north and south SR 99 segments that would lead to it. Our study showed that it is feasible to toll only the tunnel at a medium toll rate and generate $400 million to fill the gap in funding for the viaduct replacement.

If a toll is charged to use the tunnel, traffic model analysis shows that some traffic would divert to local streets and I-5, mostly during the midday, evening and weekend times when these routes are able to absorb additional trips. Because there is capacity during those off-peak times, travel times would stay the same or increase by two to four minutes. Tolling the proposed bored tunnel would encourage longer through trips and discourage shorter, more localized trips on SR 99.

This fall we will release a second Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the viaduct replacement. The document will focus on the bored tunnel alternative and will look at how the transportation system functions, including the potential effects of tolling.

32 Replies to "New Alaskan Way Viaduct report: Tunnel tolls up to $3.50?"

  • Sasquatch January 19, 2010 (4:22 pm)

    Who will use the tunnel with tolls that high? Not I.

  • forrest (with 2 Rs) January 19, 2010 (4:26 pm)

    Tolling the proposed bored tunnel would encourage longer through trips and discourage shorter, more localized trips on SR 99.

    They already found some ways to do this. Eliminate downtown exits. Significantly increase difficulty of entering the tunnel for people in Ballard.

    What others can we envision?

    Lets just cap both ends of the tunnel!

  • WSnewbie January 19, 2010 (4:33 pm)

    Thats high, back home in Baltimore, the toll just got to $2.00 each way and the tunnels there have been there since the 70’s if not before.

  • Bonnie January 19, 2010 (4:35 pm)

    Is that one way or two? I couldn’t afford to pay $7 a day to work downtown. What about taking the bus? Would those on the bus be expected to pay the tolls?

  • jeannie January 19, 2010 (4:40 pm)

    Yeah, go ahead and make us pay the tolls. We’ve all got tons of money to spare. And, sure, we don’t mind if there are a couple million dollars in cost overruns.

  • JoB January 19, 2010 (4:46 pm)

    maybe paying for the seawall separately is a better idea than $3/50 tolls

  • coffee January 19, 2010 (4:55 pm)

    just say no to tolls, I will be finding another way to get around town.

  • Catherine January 19, 2010 (5:46 pm)

    Kind of like a secret passageway for the rich.

  • Babs January 19, 2010 (6:10 pm)

    Pay a toll to enter a gas filled tunnel that will open in 2040, costing taxpayers millions in overruns that has no exits to DT, will create a clusterF at the tunnel exit to circle back to DT.
    Then I bet the big quake comes and shuts down work on it for years. Yeppers all courtesy of your Washington State Government. I know we need to replace the viaduct. I think the sharp and witty black crow that hangs around my deck would be better suited to decision making on this issue over people in Olympia at the helm.

  • Sue January 19, 2010 (6:10 pm)

    The toll seems high; $3.50+ tolls were the norm in New York City, but I also earned 30% more salary for the same job than I get here. But consider that in NYC when you had a choice (such as the toll on the Midtown Tunnel versus taking the no-toll 59th Street bridge), people overcrowded the free option. If it was going to be some super express tunnel that saved me tremendous amounts of time, I might consider a toll. But I guarantee you I will never take that tunnel if they are charging tolls on it.

  • my two cents ... January 19, 2010 (6:13 pm)

    I remember growing up with the tolls on the Evergreen Bridge. My parents would make a choice on time and convenience versus the cost of the toll. The same thing will occur with this tunnel. It’s not a good thing, not a bad thing, it just is.

  • JC January 19, 2010 (6:20 pm)

    West Seattle continues to just get screwed by this…not only will there no longer be an exit to get downtown, but we have to pay a high price for that inconvenience. Whatever happened to the monorail from W.S. to downtown that we voted for…but that Rainier Valley got (in the form of light rail)? Let’s clog those surface streets and back up I-5. What is happening to our city??

  • xd January 19, 2010 (7:56 pm)

    From the report: “The estimated cost for the bored tunnel increased by $60 million, to $1.96 billion”

    It will go higher and we still can’t afford it. The tolls are BS. And I agree about the loss the downtown exit – absolutely ridiculous for commuters who have to pay those tolls. Biggest mistake that Chris Gregoire has ever made to override the people’s vote. Wasn’t it just last week that we were reading the ‘state is out of money’ ? I guess the Feds are funding this one.

    And its not that much of stretch that this thing could trigger an earthquake. It’s over a major fault – there will be significant vibrations from the boring, it will displace earth. Notice all the landslides lately? The Ring of Fire is engaged.

  • Kat January 19, 2010 (8:51 pm)

    Being charged a toll would certainly have me ask the question: should I really be riding the bus? I have a car, but currently ride the bus into downtown about 60% of the time. I’ll find any excuse to drive, especially on Sunday when parking downtown is free. If riding the bus and doing a toll were the same price on a free parking day, I’d drive. But if it were, say, $3 more to drive than bus it- I’d probably bus.

    Also, the buses will still be able to get off near downtown. I watched a simulation video and saw that they get off near downtown at the stadiums and go down Alaskan Way (Am I wrong about that?). You’ll still be able to get downtown, just not directly from the tunnel.

    And really there is nothing wrong with riding the bus. People who only ride the bus, who don’t have cars or who are in a financial situation to not afford a car, probably don’t care about tolls. It’s maybe those middle of the road people who make enough money to own and maintain a car, but don’t have a lot of disposable income, who are concerned about a financial hit with a toll.

    I acknowledge that people are upset about it. How about hearing from communities who are currently paying tolls? Ferry riders, for example, are paying a kind of toll (the highways continue over the water in form of ferry), or people using the new bridge in Tacoma? How do they deal with tolls- the decisions to use that roadway v.s. another, use other transportation, car pool, etc. Are they angry about the financial hit, complacent, or do they enjoy what they see a more efficient system?

    The toll costs don’t cover everything, but at least something is getting picked up by the people who are USING the travel way.

    I grew up in Eastern Washington and listened to my folks or other adults complain about their taxes paying for “all the roads and highways” they never use on the West Side. To me it makes sense for the people who use State Highways to pay for them somehow. What could be cool is if we could indicate on our state taxes which roads we want to help pay for depending on our zip code or something. The more people in that zip code, the more money to maintain those State Highways. Or maybe we could pick and choose- I want x% to go to Highway 99 in Seattle, and x% to go to 520, and x% to 206.

    Oh, and yes. There is wool over my eyes.

  • vjl January 19, 2010 (8:56 pm)

    I’ll do whatever I can to avoid the tunnel if the tolls are that high – of course, I’ll also have little reason to use it, if there are no downtown exits. I can always take I-5 to get to the U for work, thereby adding my presence to its already overcrowded state.

    I hate the thought of having to move out of West Seattle, but if it’s going to become that expensive to reach other parts of the city, I might need to consider it.

  • Jim January 19, 2010 (10:15 pm)

    I’m glad I don’t work in Ballard anymore…

    If the Tacoma narrows bridge is any example, won’t the city be paying tolls every time a fire engine, aid unit, or police car passes through the tunnel? The Pierce County Sheriff has had a huge toll bill, because the state won’t exempt them from the tolls.

  • tk January 19, 2010 (10:53 pm)

    The report projects that only 63% of the toll revenue will actually go to pay off the tunnel debt- the rest goes to managing the tolls. There’s got to be a more efficient way to bring in the money and have 100% go to what it’s supposed to. After reading that, even a flat annual tax sounds better to me.

    And, I could not see anywhere mentioned low long this toll was supposed to go for, except a vague mention of a 30-year levy? I thought tolls like the floating bridge tolls had a much shorter lifespan than that.

    Also, the report says tolls will be up $5.00 each way (in 2015 dollars, adjusted for inflation each year after that, depending which scenario is chosen. That’s $200 per month if you only go 5 round trips a week. What does a montly ferry pass cost by comparison?

    The report includes projections of how much traffic will divert onto surface streets & I-5 if the higher toll rates are charged. What’s the point of building the tunnel if no one uses it and just gridlocks downtown?

  • velo_nut January 19, 2010 (11:06 pm)

    Ride your bike to work.

    one of the most UNDER taxed states in the nation… listen to the whine,

  • creepmeout January 19, 2010 (11:14 pm)

    Not everyone is going to work that leaves here and goes North. I drive out to the Northend to help my elderly mother several times a week. No way could I afford to pay another $7 a trip to do that. I can barely afford the gas. Taking a 2 hour bus ride to get there and then doing all the errands and doctors visits I take her to once there is out of the question.Not to mention the bus stop is a long ways away from her house. No way. I’ll take the waterfront road instead if I have to.Takes longer but not as long as the bus does from here.

    The rich developers get the waterfront when the viaduct is gone , the wealthy drivers get the tunnel and the rest of us just get screwed…again..

  • Jtk January 20, 2010 (12:08 am)

    Its all horses&$t. Period. Its a government conspiracy for sure. Just like the cost of gas trippled when george w. (the oil slingin’ jackass from texas) got into office!!! Then magically when his term was over gas went down! These suit wearing, large paycheck collecting people in office dont care. They will do whatever will make them the most money. But the best part is, they will say what they think u want to hear to get into office. Its all CRAP!!

  • tikkun January 20, 2010 (12:23 am)

    the real numbers (do the calculations) have the tunnel tolling at 5 to 6 bucks PER WAY!

    I know I can’t afford that.

    The tunnel numbers were due out on the 1st. Where are they?????

    I smell at FOIA request, TR!

  • toddinwestwood January 20, 2010 (5:33 am)

    Riding you bike to work? Yay on the way home I can pick up my daughter from school and go to the grocery store, all on my happy little two wheeler.

    wake up folks,there has even been talk of taxing your bicycles, in the form of “registration”. Kind of like a bicycle licence plate. cant wait for THAT arguement.

  • Bill January 20, 2010 (7:24 am)

    “Ride your bike to work.

    one of the most UNDER taxed states in the nation… listen to the whine,”

    Sounds like they are working on changing that doesn’t it? You want to throw your money away be my guest but don’t tell the rest us we are being stupid for not wanting to pay $3.50 to ride on a road that nobody wanted moron.

  • S January 20, 2010 (7:55 am)

    creepmeout, you’d always have the option of going to visit your mother sometime other than rush hour. The $3.50 toll is the highest, most likely at morning and evening rush hour – lower at other times. It’s really just the same principal as peak and off-peak rates on the buses. Charging higher rates at rush hour will be sufficient incentive for some folks to take the bus or delay their commute to off-peak times, balancing the traffic flow more throughout the day. Not a bad idea, IMO.

  • Dailycommuter January 20, 2010 (8:25 am)

    I will happily pay their toll — when every other state road and bridge in Washington built over the last 30 years with my tax dollars is tolled as well (and I’m including Eastern Washington in that category). That’s the only fair way.

  • S January 20, 2010 (9:20 am)

    Dailycommuter, a simple hike in the state gasoline tax would probably be a more cost effective way of achieving the same result as your idea.

  • JC January 20, 2010 (9:30 am)

    West Seattle continues to get more condos built, adding to the insanity of commuting east. The tolls, lack of downtown access and traffic moving toward the city is going to cause property values to plummet in West Seattle. The exodus will begin in a couple of years, if you want to get your money’s worth from your property.

  • Laconique January 20, 2010 (9:32 am)

    Amen, Dailycommuter! Why don’t they toll the bridges and I-5?? Every other state and major city I’ve lived in has had tolls on arterial highways and massive expensive bridges. It’s totally ridiculous to charge tolls on the tunnel and nowhere else.

  • Al January 20, 2010 (9:54 am)

    This isn’t even limited to the tunnel. This would effect ALL of West Seattle, including our faster alternate routes like S. 99. Amazingly bad for West Seattle. I’m not against tolls per se, I am a cyclist, and I still think these tolls really hurt the communities to the South and Soutwest over all others. We are not getting improved transit options (RapidRide is on hold and will get stuck in traffic if/when it begins), we are not getting improved options to downtown (ok, bike route is the only execption)…

    “WSDOT also studied the effect of tolling segments of the Highway 99 corridor in addition to the tunnel. Under one scenario, drivers would choose between the tunnel or paying a $1.25 toll to take above-ground State Route 99 — either into downtown in the morning or out of downtown at night. The toll would be in effect just south of the Aurora Avenue Bridge in the north and at Spokane Street in the south end.”

    It’s time to start calling and corresponding with WSDOT, SDOT and our representatives people.

  • Meghan January 20, 2010 (10:46 am)

    Tolls??!!! Like the rest of the world (and most of the nation) pays???!!! In our little small town of Seattle???? Oh, Heavens to Betsy!!! Let’s just kill the tunnel project right now!!! I mean, sheesh, do you really think people in our little hamlet can get used to any sort of change???? Oh, MY!!!!! Building a tunnel might actually require us to acknowledge that we’re a major city! We wouldn’t want that!! So let’s either build another huge elevated highway right on our central waterfront (which would still require tolls) OR just tear it down and cross our fingers that people will figure out some way to get around the round-the-clock gridlock.

  • KD January 20, 2010 (1:40 pm)

    The issues with tolls, aside from the money, are traffic and accidents. Tolls take up a lot of space and cause horrible bottlenecks. They also are a major source of accidents. I grew up in New York and went to college in CT, the tolls on I-95 were finally removed due to the death toll. They better come up with an electronic scanner so that people who travel through it every day can do so without too much delay. Tolls are a very inefficient way of collecting the money, but obviously effective in taxing the users of the tunnel.

  • sf January 20, 2010 (2:04 pm)

    The taxpayers didn’t vote for the tunnel. Only Gov Gregoire & Mayor Nickels decided on the tunnel cause they wouldn’t be in office & wouldn’t have to pay for it!

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