TUNNEL TOLLS: State Transportation Commission gets briefing next week

(WSDOT photo: Southbound tunnel portal near the stadium zone, photographed 2 weeks ago, shared to WSB Flickr group)

Though the Highway 99 tunnel is a little over a year from replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the tolls aren’t set yet – though the $1 vicinity was recommended almost four years ago. So what will they be? The next step toward decisions is set for next week, when the state Transportation Commission meets in Olympia, with the agenda for its two-day meeting including:

On December 12, the Washington State Department of Transportation Toll Division will present initial traffic and toll revenue projections for the tunnel replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct portion of SR 99. The Washington State Legislature has directed that tolls raise $200 million toward project construction costs over time. Although the commission will not adopt toll rates until fall 2018, the data will be used to determine how toll rates will vary by time of day to manage congestion on the facility and impacts on surface streets.

You can see the full agenda here. The full meeting announcement notes that the tunnel toll rates are not expected to be finalized until fall of next year. (If you follow the link, you’ll see the two-day meeting includes some other hot topics, including the pilot project for a road-usage charge, and getting ready for “self-driving” vehicles.)

43 Replies to "TUNNEL TOLLS: State Transportation Commission gets briefing next week"

  • SoAdmiralK December 7, 2017 (3:08 pm)

    I will always hate the tunnel.  

  • Chris December 7, 2017 (3:12 pm)

    A toll to sit in traffic in a tunnel. No way. As someone who drives, rather sits, in that traffic twice a day, the light and beautiful view make it bearable and keeps me traveling on that road way. Once that road is plunged into darkness and charges me for sitting in that hole I will just be changing my route for sure.

    • Scott A December 7, 2017 (4:25 pm)

      Unless the price isn’t allowed to fluctuate with demand drivers shouldn’t be sitting in too much traffic in the tunnel unless there’s a wreck in it or after it.  I’m not saying the recent $40 toll in Virginia is a good idea but the predictable variable tolling on 520 seems to do pretty well.  Maximum toll on 520 currently looks like $4.30 during morning peak.  Since the tunnel will be competing with other non-tolled surface routes more than the floating bridges I’d expect a cheaper rate schedule.

      • sw December 7, 2017 (5:21 pm)

        Agreed.  They need to keep it at or close to the $1 mark to avoid traffic spilling onto the side streets.  Regarding 520, there are options to drive over or around Lake Washington, but through downtown there is only one other North-South option.  Toll avoidance needs to be a huge consideration.  I feel that they could make it up in volume if priced reasonably, although their studies seem to be geared to revenue, not alleviation of traffic.

        • Scott A December 7, 2017 (7:55 pm)

          I’d say Alaskan Way and certain avenues through downtown will also be alternatives to the tunnel or I-5 but more for the very thrifty.

    • Swede. December 7, 2017 (8:13 pm)

      I don’t think you’ll get stuck in the tunnel traffic much. Like others here point out it will be like the 520 bridge. When they tolled that traffic flow dropped 70% and everyone got stuck on I-90 instead. Downtown however will be a giant roadblock! 

      • Mike December 8, 2017 (6:29 am)

        People would rather pay $5 in gas and an hour of their life each way than $1 in a toll.  That’s why I’ll pay the $1 toll and have more time to do things other than sit in traffic.  Do people forget how bad our roads have been for 30+ years?  I don’t get it.  The viaduct was deemed unsafe long ago and it’s replacement date in the 80s is long overdue.  Think about that, a kid born when the viaduct was originally supposed to be replaced by would be half way to retirement now.  Moving at the speed of government.

      • MJ December 8, 2017 (8:38 am)

        The volume drop when tolling started  picked back up on the 520 IMO (I use both in the morning time). People seemed to prefer the toll over time vs the commute time being extended.

  • Jeannie December 7, 2017 (3:50 pm)

    Just say “no” to the toll! The tunnel has been a disaster,  right from the start, with delays, cost overruns (what a surprise!), poor planning and misrepresentations.  Is there any action we can take – e.g., submit our comments to the State Transportation Commission?

  • 935 December 7, 2017 (4:01 pm)

    Here ya go Jeannie – for all the good it’ll do….www.screamintothevoid.com

    At this point, it will take an act of the Seattle Fault to close down this deathtrap.

    Agreed with  ^^Chris – I will choose not be charged to sit underground.

    • Mike December 8, 2017 (6:30 am)

      it’s safer than the viaduct, yay for science!

  • Craig Harvey Lovely December 7, 2017 (4:12 pm)

    SWEET!  Paying for the cronies tunnel twice!  

  • Sunny.206 December 7, 2017 (4:32 pm)

    I would like to know what pilot project for road usage is, hopefully were  not paying more somewhere along the line. 

  • andy December 7, 2017 (4:48 pm)

    The tunnel is a total rip off, especially for those of us who live in West Seattle. Fat cat waterfront property owners and condo dwellers make out like bandits.

    • Scott A December 7, 2017 (5:23 pm)

      At least downtown property owners are paying $200 million of extra property taxes into a Local Improvement District for the new waterfront.


  • MJ December 7, 2017 (6:31 pm)

    With competing non tolled facilities pricing of the toll fairly is needed.  During peak travel times a higher toll, with a faster travel time, is reasonable.  Paying a toll to sit in traffic is not!  

    Off peak tolls of a couple of dollars might be about right, during peak times increased tolls need to be fair and assure faster travel times in exchange for payment.

  • Trickycoolj December 7, 2017 (6:59 pm)

    I believe it was $8 to use the 167 HOT lane on Thanksgiving when there was zero demand and no traffic at 1:30pm

    • Swede. December 7, 2017 (8:20 pm)

      Seen the pictures from rush hour out of Bellevue, three lanes packed going walking speed and the ‘HOT’ lane totally empty and expensive! That idea to relieve traffic is working great… The tunnel will likely be same thing, all of downtown and outer routs north will be at a stand still and the tunnel wide open, if you want to pay nine bucks. 

      • Mike December 8, 2017 (6:32 am)

        Meanwhile I pay the toll and get home in a few minutes rather than 2 hours.

  • aa December 7, 2017 (7:12 pm)

    All of this resistance to the tunnel and the subsequent side street congestion is why I continue to be dumbfounded that anyone would support building yet another stadium in the area.  And I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken too during this transition that had no clue there it is going to be a toll road. It really is time to create a plan for commuting off West Seattle.  The days of driving yourself downtown are quickly coming to an end folks.  Time to accept it, move, or live a hellish commute.

  • TheNewSF December 7, 2017 (7:42 pm)

    Adding a toll to another road, increasing the hours for paid parking in key areas like Cap Hill, increasing the cost of busses during non-peak hours–this on top of increased cost of living in Seattle. If the plan is to bankrupt Seattle residents,  this city is doing a really  great job. It’s no wonder homelessness went up 44% in Seattle in the last two years. There is absolutely no regard for working families. Living in San Francisco for ten years I had a front-row seat to its uncontrolled gentrification and transition into an enclave for the wealthy. I see the same thing  happening in Seattle but at an alarmingly faster rate and I just don’t see that our city’s leaders are in any position to slow it down– if they actually wanted to.  Rather than supporting residents to rise to the challenges of living in this new Seattle, they just add another tax to the already bursting load. Shameful! 

    • Swede. December 7, 2017 (8:22 pm)

      I heard similar views from others that had to leave SF too. It’s not looking great here that’s for sure… Whoever ‘wins’ the new amazon HQ will probably regret it pretty quickly. 

    • Canton December 7, 2017 (9:01 pm)

      Thank you, well put. It’s about replacing the voter/tax base with younger new found wealth, that don’t have the time to learn beyond the cute names the city puts on every new tax. As a lifelong, 4th gen resident, it’s maddening to see the city destroy, what has long been, a diverse city.

  • Mr E December 7, 2017 (8:07 pm)

    I don’t care if this sounds elitist, but I am happy to pay a toll to use the tunnel if it guarantees my luxury car won’t have to share a lane with poor people or cheap libertarians.

    • WSB December 7, 2017 (8:14 pm)

      I suppose you are being facetious – but I am nonetheless dutybound to note that there is no such proposal. The tunnel and its lanes will be open to all.

    • Swede. December 7, 2017 (8:25 pm)

      Best reply award goes too: ‘Mr E’!!!

      Runner up: WSB!  

  • K. Davis December 7, 2017 (8:46 pm)

    I find myself smiling at the complaining.  I get it – people want free stuff and don’t want to pay for things.  Fair enough.  And the beauty of the toll is that if you don’t want to pay it, don’t use the tunnel.  

    What I don’t get is the willful ignorance from the deluded claim that the tunnel was built to line the pockets of property owners along the waterfront or the silliness about the tunnel being a “deathtrap”.  

    We’re building necessary infrastructure.  We’re replacing a real deathtrap – the existing viaduct.  I guess if neighboring property owners see a financial benefit that is an inevitable by-product of building infrastructure.  So who cares?  

    If you’re just against the tunnel, good for you.  But gosh … deal in some facts.  

  • Douglas December 7, 2017 (8:57 pm)

    What other fees are we as average citizens going to have to pay. Why are we going to a fee based tax system? This just leaves more money in the hands of the rich and much less in the hands of working Americans. It will cost a much higher percentage of wages for the poor to travel. This is not in our long term interests.

  • onion December 7, 2017 (9:53 pm)

    I will be stunned if the toll is “only” a buck. I’m guessing $2.50 minimum initially.

    • Mike December 8, 2017 (6:33 am)

      So less than a Metro bus ride?

  • The King December 7, 2017 (10:41 pm)

    I am just glad they haven’t decided on how to tax or toll the sun yet. It was beautiful today. 

    • Patrick December 8, 2017 (2:10 am)


      The NWS (National Weather Service) along with other meteorologists like myself have formed a committee  to study the effects of sunshine here in the Pac Nw (more specifically) Seattle and have hired a “solar consultant” to determine the appropriate amount of sunshine to be allotted to residents in the Seattle metro area between October 3rd through April 30th. With that said our findings will be immediately forwarded to the city council to draft a new AGGRESSIVE tax on those who complain that it rains too much and that we don’t get enough sunshine in December. 

      The current proposed tax would be 52.5 cents for every 60 cents spent and that revenue would be used to divert all “bonus” December sunshine to the residents of Medina. 

      Additionally we are also working in conjunction with the city council on a possible excessive cloudy day tax, you don’t even want to know what we plan to tax those at. 

  • Rick December 8, 2017 (5:57 am)

    Years ago the city tried to tax me on a small sign atop my 1 story rented building claiming the sign extended over city property, that being the sidewalk.  After being informed that said sign was set back 2 feet from city property the employee hesitated for a bit (I swear I could hear wheels spinning over the phone!) and informed me I was still using city property as I benefited from people using city street and sidewalk who could see my sign. Now that employee had to be a keeper,or future city council/mayor.  

  • flimflam December 8, 2017 (8:27 am)

    remember, folks, our wonderful city “leaders” like mike o’brien want to toll downtown streets as well so people can’t use them to avoid the tunnel toll. 

  • TJ December 8, 2017 (8:52 am)

    Flimflam, understand that Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant are in a battle to see who can out-progressive the other. Their ideas are a square peq in a round hole in the real world daily lives of the middle class. Tolling surface streets to penalize those who are avoiding the tunnel won’t fly. We only toll new roads to pay for them, not supplement it by tolling other streets. And we must make sure the city discontinues the tolls once the tunnel is paid for. And btw, how are they going to charge passengers on buses that use the tunnel?

    • WSB December 8, 2017 (9:00 am)

      Metro isn’t expecting to use it for transit for at least a few decades.

  • fiz December 8, 2017 (9:31 am)

    Saw a wonderful chiropractor in downtown for nearly twenty years and a talented hairstylist in downtown and Belltown for more than thirty.   Tearfully said goodbye to both and found new services in West Seattle.   Just do not want to go downtown anymore.

  • Seabruce December 8, 2017 (10:38 am)

    If they just toll the tunnel portion are they  forecasting no backups during rush hour of cars going from the West Seattle Bridge to either the tunnel or the new Columbia St exit from 99? How about cars driving southbound on Aurora to access the tunnel?

  • MJ December 8, 2017 (11:55 am)


    Supporting local WS businesses is a good thing in my opinion.

    Having local options reduces the need to use the West Seattle Bridge and future tunnel parking facilities (pun intended on parking reference)


  • sarah December 8, 2017 (12:18 pm)

    My suggestion would be to retrofit 99 when the tunnel opens.  We will need both.  I could care less about a park and developers getting better views. 

  • Uff Da December 8, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    the tunnel will help downtown. But it does nothing to address transit. Seattleites will not say/mention/allow/discuss the idea of a subway. Subway! God forbid. People are still waiting for flying cars, moving sidewalks, drone passenger pick-ups and molecular transporters. No other city in the world has managed without a subway. Ergo sum, we don’t want one. Even Portland is smarter than we are. 

  • Fire Ball December 8, 2017 (8:14 pm)

    Just ride a motorcycle, reach back and put your hand over the plate…Good 2 Go!

  • Shockley December 9, 2017 (11:01 am)

    LOL to the people claiming the tunnel has been a “disaster”.   A solved mechanical issue causing a delay and no other issues doesn’t really rise to that level now does it?

    These are probably the same people who scream and cry about mental anguish and emotional devastation when their ice cream falls out of their cone.

    I for one am glad that Seattle’s growing infrastructure is not at the mercy of the tear-stained martyr brigade.

    Our waterfront will be the envy of the nation and the only thing detracting from it will be the streaming mascara stains from all the crybabies standing on the side.

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