HIGHWAY 99 TUNNEL: It ‘could open … as soon as this fall’

(Northbound deck inside Highway 99 tunnel – WSDOT photo from last week)

WSDOT‘s newest Highway 99 tunnel update is out, and the state says that Seattle Tunnel Partners‘ newest schedule indicates “the tunnel could open to drivers as soon as this fall.” They’re not ready to estimate a date yet, and WSDOT notes that a “significant amount of work remains between now and tunnel opening,” but it’s getting closer. And WSDOT’s update includes the reminder that when “the tunnel is ready to open, SR 99 through downtown Seattle will be closed to traffic for approximately three weeks” so that connections can be finalized. You can read the entire update here.

P.S. As we’ve been reminding you in the morning traffic/transportation updates, the Battery Street Tunnel will be closed for four hours this Saturday morning, 6-10 am, for an inspection related to its future decommissioning

46 Replies to "HIGHWAY 99 TUNNEL: It 'could open ... as soon as this fall'"

  • Smittytheclown January 10, 2018 (6:38 pm)

    Very cool.  I just hope they announce the 3-week period (no tunnel and no viaduct) sooner rather than later!  I need to put in for vacation at that time….

  • TJ January 10, 2018 (6:58 pm)

    Cool. I will be avoiding it and it’s toll. Not a affordability problem for me, just the principle of the thing. And btw, they need to say right now that the toll will be removed once the tunnel is paid off. 

    • Alki Resident January 10, 2018 (7:50 pm)

      Lol, you must be new to this state. Nothing gets paid off and you’ll never know the balance.

      • Dale Swanson January 10, 2018 (9:03 pm)

        Cept for Safeco field & Key Arena. 

      • dsa January 10, 2018 (9:52 pm)

        The first 520 Lk Washington floating bridge toll got paid off (Evergreen Point).  In fact old US 10 lk wash floating bridge, now I-90 had tolls too which got paid off.  

  • Trickycoolj January 10, 2018 (8:28 pm)

    Finally. The reason I moved from Northgate to West Seattle….  six years ago. Didn’t want to pay a toll from Northgate to Boeing Field. 

  • steve January 10, 2018 (9:59 pm)

    Cool. Can we start building a 3rd, and maybe a 4th stadium now? Right next to the other ones, that we didn’t vote for.

  • Seattlite January 10, 2018 (10:07 pm)

    I just want the engineers to triple check that tunnel before it’s opened to the public.  I won’t be using it but I care about everyone’s safety.

  • H January 10, 2018 (11:04 pm)


  • Question Authority January 11, 2018 (5:40 am)

    For all the naysayers who won’t be using the tunnel on principle or other simplistic ideals, go ahead and enjoy the inevitable crowding of the surface streets as I and others whiz right by leaving our lofty ideals behind.

    • P January 11, 2018 (8:33 am)

      Me too. When I need to drive, I’m perfectly willing to pay money to save time and not waste my life sitting in traffic “on principle.”

  • West Seattle Hipster January 11, 2018 (7:04 am)

    Very cool indeed.  Too bad the capacity will not be enough to support a rapidly growing city, but I dig the fact it got built despite all the opposition by the usual complainers.

    i will just miss driving by Century Link and Safeco Field and admiring their beauty.

    • Question Authority January 11, 2018 (11:00 am)

      The view you should be enjoying while you can is on the opposite side.  The one of water and mountains, not silly structures.

      • West Seattle Hipster January 11, 2018 (5:00 pm)

        To each their own Mr. Authority,  I adore the sportsball stadiums.

    • rpo January 11, 2018 (10:12 pm)

      The entrance to the tunnel is north of the stadiums, so you’ll still go right by them northbound. Southbound may be view restricted more though. 

  • WS since '66 January 11, 2018 (7:27 am)

    I am looking forward to our new tunnel! If all those refusing to use if “on principle” or just because they don’t like it are being honest and won’t use the tunnel that will ease traffic by that much for the rest of us. 

  • Blinkyjoe January 11, 2018 (7:43 am)

    I’ll miss driving on the elevated roadway. The view of the sound and Olympics for a few minutes per day was very nice. 

  • Kate January 11, 2018 (8:31 am)

    Pretty sure there will be no “whizzing by” in the tunnel. Maybe for the first few weeks, but I’m sure it will have typically rush hour clog that that 99 has now. I really hope I’m wrong….

    • Question Authority January 11, 2018 (11:02 am)

      Have Amazon leave town and the traffic will improve.

  • HelperMonkey January 11, 2018 (9:10 am)

    For the life of me I will never understand the reasoning of this tunnel. Let’s replace a roadway used daily to get thousands of people directly downtown, but let’s replace it with something that doesn’t have *any* downtown exits. 99 is busy every single day as a route to downtown. The exits are backed up every day. This is going to be a debacle. Surface streets are going to be crowded not by people who won’t use the tunnel on principle  – they will be clogged by teems of people trying to get to work every day like they used to. It’s not a matter of tolls or principles – it’s that it won’t function in the way that many people need it to. 

    • Gatewood January 11, 2018 (9:40 am)

      Helpermonkey, I see it happening as you pointed out, how could it not?  Is it true, there are only 2 lanes each way?  What is the toll?

    • joezaloom January 11, 2018 (12:22 pm)

      You are right; this is typical thinking for WA and Seattle. Make decisions based on ideology rather than practicality. “Let’s remove vehicle access to downtown, that will make them take public transportation.” Meanwhile, as the reality of peoples’ behavior contradicts the ideology their lives have been made miserable by inept politicians. Here’s another brilliant idea: let’s reduce parking downtown to make people take the bus. Meanwhile the last 37 bus to come by here is the 7:25 am. So I either drive and go insane looking for parking, or take Lyft and go broke. Thanks Lisa Herbold and the rest of our enlightened legislators. You give credence to conservative’s rhetoric about the folly of liberal Seattle.

      • WSB January 11, 2018 (1:30 pm)

        Before this line of discussion goes any further, again, while it’s absolutely not the same, the tunnel does not “remove vehicle access to downtown.” From the FAQ page:

        How will people from West Seattle and south King County get to downtown Seattle?

        Vehicles heading north on SR 99 will have access to downtown Seattle via an off-ramp to a new Alaskan Way street. The new Alaskan Way will provide several east-west connections to downtown. West Seattle residents can also reach downtown using the Spokane Street Viaduct off-ramp to Fourth Avenue South.

        Rendering: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/viaduct/Media/Default/Documents/South_Portal.jpg

        When we go downtown (where I am right this moment, in fact, after an SDOT briefing on an unrelated project), we always take 4th. I spent years sitting in the queue to exit to 99 and would just rather not. And yes, it has its backups too.

        The challenges of the next couple years will be the myriad concurrent projects that would be affecting people, Viaduct or no Viaduct.

        If you want to allege a conspiracy theory/secret motive for the tunnel, rather than “liberal ideology,” it’s been alleged to have more of a capitalistic motive – allegedly to enrich property owners who will have a much better view when the Viaduct’s gone. Haven’t seen any number-crunching on that lately, though.

        • joezaloom January 11, 2018 (3:24 pm)

          By way of clarification, the liberal ideology I was referring to is the attempt to force people to take public transit by making driving more painful.  Certainly the proposal to reduce parking downtown will do just that. I hear the ideas about property owners who will benefit, and I think that idea holds water. I was speaking in a larger context about the motivations of Seattle’s traffic decisions. South Lake Union is a good example, see my comment below. Also, I see that my comment wasn’t rejected, there was just a time period when it was not appearing here. My bad.

  • West Seattle Transportation Coalition January 11, 2018 (10:08 am)

    Yes, it is true that there are only two lanes in each direction — so it will have the same capacity as the current construction bypass. We don’t know the toll rates yet because they haven’t made a decision. And it is entirely possible that there could be a toll required for taking the new exit near the stadiums without even using the Tunnel itself.

  • WS resident January 11, 2018 (10:39 am)

    I think it’s funny how some people are against tolls. Just as many people, some probably the same, will also complain of potholes and traffic and other infrastructure issues. Why do some people expect infrastructure from the government but don’t want to pay taxes and tolls? How does that make sense? I do wish wish it had more lanes though for the growing traffic. But I am excited for this. Yes, the views are definitely pretty on the viaduct and I’ll miss it. But if we can make it into a pretty green waterfront area, that would be real nice too.

  • WSB January 11, 2018 (10:44 am)

    Since tolling has come up in the discussion – if you missed our most-recent look at what happens next:

  • K. Davis January 11, 2018 (12:07 pm)

    @Helpermonkey – the “reasoning” for the tunnel requires understanding what problem the tunnel is addressing.  The viaduct is a seismically vulnerable structure, as proven by the Nisqually earthquake which nearly brought it down.  There is a real risk of large number of deaths if that happened.  

    So the alternatives were 1. patch the viaduct – this was rejected as unsound by competent engineers; 2. tear down the viaduct and build a new one – this was basically the same price as the tunnel, would have required building a much larger viaduct (original viaduct built to 1950’s highway standards) and would have left us without any viaduct for 3-4 years during the construction process (and even a new viaduct would have seismic vulnerability); 3. tear down the viaduct and go to a “surface-only” option heavily weighted to bikes and buses (yeah I know – really stupid) or 4. build a tunnel which is the most seismically safe option.  

    That is why smart people chose #4.  If folks would stick to the facts, this is an easy thing to understand.  I understand (sort of) that people want free stuff so a toll is unpopular.  But safety is not free.  Infrastructure – the good kind – costs money.  

    And for all the bitching about “only two lanes” – that’s all we have NOW in the Battery St. tunnel.  But now we’ll have better lanes, with safer curves.  As it is, Bertha was the biggest TBM ever built.  Making it 50% bigger to dig a 3-lane tunnel was never possible.  

    • joezaloom January 11, 2018 (3:26 pm)

      Salient points K Davis, thank you.

  • zark00 January 11, 2018 (12:11 pm)

    The tunnel was pushed through, against the will of the people, by developers and land owners whose property will be worth FAR more once the viaduct comes down.  The toll is you paying out of pocket to subsidize extremely wealthy people and large companies who will make millions on the increased property values.  It’s not some altruistic move by your beloved local government to provide you with better mobility at a small price – you, we, are absolutely getting screwed on this tunnel. Tolls aren’t to pay for potholes WS Resident, they’re to pay for the tunnel that was built to increase the value of the property along the waterfront and back a couple blocks.  Not one single dime of the tolls will go toward fixing or improving any road surface period.  In fact, the tolls will likely not be enough to pay back the extreme cost overruns, and our lovely local govt will likely find a way to siphon off of the general to pay the massive bill that comes due when Seattle Tunnel Partners wins their lawsuits against the city – same group that did the Big Dig in Boston – they’re very litigious.  This will be a hot garbage mess.  Oh, one of the tunnels they built in Boston collapsed and killed someone didn’t it?  So stay out of our tunnel for THAT reason alone – they suck at building tunnels.  Also -apparently because they used those cheapo decks, if there’s an accident on one of the two decks, tunnel has to shut down BOTH WAYS until it’s cleared – nice job Seattle city planners, you built a tunnel that carries less cars, and suffers more in the case of accident.  Remember when it took, what, 8 hours to clear the fish truck or whatever from the viaduct – yeah now it’ll take 12 hours.  Brilliant.   Oh, we also have 3 new sink holes on 1st ave!!  yay! that’s the tunnel too!  Joy. 

    • uncle loco January 11, 2018 (2:40 pm)

      Don’t worry, they’ll fix those sink holes when they tear up 1st ave for the new trolley. That will also add to the fun.

  • Newbie Bike Commuter January 11, 2018 (12:33 pm)

    I’m dreading this.  I know driving by myself to my job on QA is irresponsible, so taking two Metro buses has been a doable alternative that only adds a little extra time each way.  I can’t help but think driving on surface streets (no buses in tunnel – right?) is going to be a grind.  Here’s hoping I can get my carcass in shape enough to get there on two wheels before it opens up.

  • sgs January 11, 2018 (2:32 pm)

    I wonder if there are any restrictions on 18 wheelers using the tunnel.    

  • TJ January 11, 2018 (3:02 pm)

    Those who keep saying the tunnel will have the same capacity as the viaduct because the battery street tunnel is 2 lanes need to understand that most of the viaduct has THREE lanes, including up to the battery street tunnel, which does go to 2. But that is because there is a Western exit. Oh, and a Seneca exit before, which the tunnel will not have. This was a obnoxiously overpriced project that ridicuously adds no capacity (never mind a booming population),  & lacks downtown exits. 

    • Gatewood January 11, 2018 (4:36 pm)

      Exactly!  Anyone that has lived in this city for over 10 years has seen and experience the growth.  How in the world could they build the tunnel with out at least doubling the lanes?  What’s traffic going to look like in 5 more years?

  • Meagain January 11, 2018 (3:24 pm)

    Also note:if you are going to west Queen Anne, Magnolia,  or Ballard the tunnel is not going to get you there directly-it’ll be much longer. What I, and everyone else will do is go through 1st ave or the waterfront to get to Elliot ave.  Plan for EXTRA time.

  • Question Authority January 11, 2018 (3:44 pm)

    This sums up the varied opinions about this tunnel.

    Boo Hoo I have to pay to play.

    It’s all about the rich property.

    I’m going to miss the view.

    I’ll die in the tunnel from construction issues.

    The will of the people was ignored.

    I have to lose weight to ride my bike.

    When’s it done, I’m excited to use it ••••

    Basically it comes down to personal choice and your own decisions to work and live where you do, so please own up to that.

  • VivaViaduct January 11, 2018 (5:08 pm)

    Why couldn’t the viaduct be kept up when the tunnel opens? Rhetorical, moot point with a sigh   

    Should you need to quickly bypass the city, use the tunnel.  Need to stop off downtown via Colombia/Western, use the viaduct.  Seems like this would only help congestion in the core of the city.  (If it were only that easy)

    We need innovative thinkers and not puppets tied to developers and privileged land owners that will clearly benefit.  We can do better for all.  Everyone, no matter if they bike, bus, walk, or drive etc deserves to have decent and safe commutes to and from workplaces.  At the same time, businesses could be more flexible with work options.

    FWIW, someone commented on here earlier about the view from the viaduct traveling North or South bound, what beautiful vistas of our surrounding areas- Elliott, Rainier and the Olympics.  I will miss that for sure and I totally agree.

    For those that say the viaduct would be unsafe in an earthquake, did you happen to see the size and amount of rebar in that structure, and what it took to take down the South section a few years back to make room for the tunnel project/equipment?  It took massive amounts of demolition equipment, it didn’t come down very easy.  I find it very hard to believe that a 9-10 point quake could take that viaduct down.


  • aamitrano January 11, 2018 (6:24 pm)

    So how will this all work? I’m trying to figure out the way it works from the renderings, but it’s a little confusing to me as a new arrival to Seattle (I take the C line, so I’m not adding to the traffic problem!). If you take the upper bridge, will there be an option to go to a surface road that used to be highway 99?

    To be completely honest, the viaduct and all of the high roads here kind of freak me out. I feel trapped because I can’t just pull over to a shoulder if I need to. I know there’s a lower bridge, but the GPS was not helpful in picking the right street to get on it. 

    If I decided to drive to downtown (and maybe on to Queen Anne), could I do regular surface roads with stop lights and intersections?

  • K. Davis January 11, 2018 (8:46 pm)

    I guess there’s no getting around willful ignorance.  You saw “the size and amount of rebar” demolished in the viaduct  and therefore you are incapable of imagining an a “9-10 point” earthquake bringing it down.  


    Where to begin?  Your failure of imagination or your abject ignorance of engineering reality?  Liquefiable soils don’t much care about rebar.  And you should pray to God that none of us ever see 9.0 earthquake (see Cascadia megathrust quake projections).  It won’t take a 9.0.  All we’ll need a an exponentially smaller quake – a 6.5 or so – and the entire viaduct would collapse catastrophically – and that would happen even if you don’t want to believe it.  

    The same with these moronic theories that the tunnel is s scheme by  rich property owners to screw us.  Good god people … get a grip on reality.  

    I guess I apologize for the sarcasm … but the ignorance here is just astounding.  

    • Gaston January 14, 2018 (2:16 am)

      Oh please- an earthquake will turn the ground into jelly, dropping the viaduct- but all those crappy old pioneer square buildings (I mean- piles of shifting bricks bound with punky, deteriorating 100 year old “mortar”) are sure to stand tall and proud?! You know what happens when a brick pops loose or crumbles? The ones above it takes it’s place, and so on.. And when all those old buildings explode into dust, the whole hillside rushes down to fill the void… At that point- who cares about the viaduct?

      And the fact is- the viaduct Didn’t collapse! And a new viaduct would be much less likely to collapse, just like all the other newer elevated roadways and light rails and skyscrapers. All this scare tactic is just diversion to sell us this stupid, counterproductive “solution”.  No thanks, Chicken Little!

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