TUNNEL TOLLING: Next discussion Wednesday – and not in Olympia this time

(WSDOT aerial photo of new tunnel’s south portal, taken last month)

The Highway 99 tunnel’s expected to open in a matter of months, but the toll rates have yet to be finalized. The decision is in the hands of the Washington State Transportation Commission, which usually meets in Olympia, but will be meeting in downtown Seattle next Wednesday (March 14th). It’s a day-long meeting with multiple topics; tunnel tolling is scheduled for 1:30 pm – it’s a briefing/discussion, not a vote, as there’s no final proposal yet. The meeting is at Puget Sound Regional Council HQ (1011 Western, fifth floor), open to all, with a public-comment period in its final half-hour, starting at 4:10 pm. Meantime, you can see WSDOT’s latest tunnel-construction update by going here.

P.S. Semi-related reminder – as we reported on Thursday, one of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s last pre-demolition inspections will close it Saturday, March 24th, 6 am-6 pm (and the next day if needed, though most recent inspections have just used the first scheduled day)

29 Replies to "TUNNEL TOLLING: Next discussion Wednesday - and not in Olympia this time"

  • Lisa March 11, 2018 (2:33 pm)

    By “matter of months,” you mean 6-8 (maybe)…

    • WSB March 11, 2018 (2:48 pm)

      The latest estimate for the Viaduct’s closure in preparation for the tunnel’s opening is September, County Council Chair Joe McDermott told the Transportation Coalition a couple weeks ago. We’re also expecting an update during the tolling briefing/discussion at this meeting – TR

  • dsa March 11, 2018 (4:26 pm)

    The critical path linked above shows the completed project to be eleven months behind schedule.  I thought it was worse than that.

    • WSB March 11, 2018 (5:11 pm)

      Well, if you go back to the original schedule … our coverage from the day then-Gov. Gregoire signed the tunnel bill at the Aquarium in 2009 mentions it was expected to be completed in 2015.


      • dsa March 11, 2018 (5:53 pm)

        Thank you, I thought they had gotten years behind.  A 2015 completion date sounds more like what I remember.  WSDOT apparently is not showing all of the past critical paths for some reason.

  • West Seattle Hipster March 11, 2018 (5:35 pm)

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  NO other media outlet in Seattle has covered the viaduct/tunnel saga better than the WSB.  I deeply appreciate the coverage.

    • WSB March 11, 2018 (5:39 pm)

      Thank you. And barring some gigantic breaking story, we’re planning to be at this meeting – going to Olympia for this group’s meetings hasn’t been feasible but we’re not going to miss the chance to see them here.

    • H March 12, 2018 (7:29 pm)

      Agreed. Kudos WSB. In addition to the excellent coverage, I shared those great progress videos with family and friends. 

  • Rick March 11, 2018 (5:48 pm)

    Aaaahhhh,the West Seattle hostage highway!

    • Question Authority March 11, 2018 (8:50 pm)

      Where you live and how you travel to and from it is a personal choice, so own it.

      • Rick March 12, 2018 (9:13 am)

        I’ve walked to work for 15 years and might  put 3k annually on my truck.  And while we’re being critical,yourself?

    • The King March 11, 2018 (9:53 pm)

      lol rick….ironic because it’s still called the West Seattle FREEway. I like the Hostage Highway name. They could spend even more of our money to change the name. Nobody knows who will pay for the hundreds of millions in cost overruns so I say just do it. 

      • Uh , yeaaah ... March 12, 2018 (8:28 am)

        The Spokane Street viaduct and WS bridge used to be the West Seattle Freeway because they were part of the freeway system, but haven’t been since the state removed the freeway designation and turned them over to Seattle. Hye 99 has never been called the west Seattle freeway, and “freeway” has never meant they’re free. 

        • dsa March 12, 2018 (9:58 am)

          The Spokane Street viaduct has never been part of the Washington State highway system.  The name change from “freeway” to “bridge” was done by the city to change the mindset of drivers.

          And as for the definition for “freeway”, check this:  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freeway 


          : an expressway with fully controlled access


          : a highway without toll fees

        • WSB March 12, 2018 (10:52 am)

          As a side note, for reasons unknown, the 911 real-time log still refers to the bridge as “freeway” despite as you note the designation having been removed years ago! WSDOT on Twitter, too.

          • dsa March 12, 2018 (11:15 am)

            It does meet the definition of a freeway.  The bridge signifies the high level structure and that is possibly why those two use the freeway designation in order to avoid confusion.

      • Rick March 12, 2018 (9:14 am)

        Kind of like driving on the parkway and parking in your driveway?

  • PigionRidge Ben March 11, 2018 (7:42 pm)

    Though this project aims to accomplish many things; freight bypass, improved waterfront experience… , if it is to meet the goal of alleviating traffic in and out of the city the state will need to pay people to use it, not the other way around.

    • Nolan March 11, 2018 (11:02 pm)

      Well, no, that’s exactly wrong. Braess’s paradox is pretty clear that if you provide another route, it will quickly fill to capacity, and every spot that intersects with it will bear the brunt of that added capacity.

      There’s a reason London implemented congestion charges: that, and tolls, are the only strategies proven to reduce traffic.

      • PigeonRidge Ben March 12, 2018 (3:01 pm)

        I follow you, Nolan, and am likely of the same mind. My point is that this is a bypass tunnel and does not offer additional capacity into the city (that if it did would be subject to Braess’ Paradox.) The initiative you reference in London is exactly what Seattle will need to do to manage down car trips into the city. The tolling apparatus should be placed at the north and south offramps before the tunnel entrances not at the entrances themselves. 

  • Howard March 12, 2018 (1:44 am)

    I voted against the tunnel, twice. 

    • KBear March 12, 2018 (1:12 pm)

      This project was never up for a public vote. That was a different tunnel proposal, and it was only voted on ONCE. So unless you are/were in the state legislature or city/county council, you did not vote on this tunnel.

  • Jeannie March 12, 2018 (4:08 am)

    What is the reason for the toll? Did the Powers That Be have it in their plans all along, or are we being forced to pay because of their mismanagement, cost overruns, delays, and problems with Big Bertha? I am tired of shelling out my hard-earned dollars for so many things when the money is so often misappropriated. 

    • WSB March 12, 2018 (6:59 am)

      The toll has all along been planned to raise part of the tunnel’s cost.

  • wscommuter March 12, 2018 (9:07 am)

    The tunnel … as has been very, very well documented over literally years right here on the WSB … is intended to replace a seismically vulnerable structure – the viaduct.  That’s it. 

    Ancillary benefits like traffic improvement or waterfront improvements are just that – ancillary.  In fact, it remains to be seen if we’ll get much in the way of traffic improvement.  The tunnel had one primary purpose – the viaduct had to be replaced before an earthquake killed a lot of people.   Not complicated to understand.  

    I get it – there are always going to be folks who don’t like the tunnel.  But please at least get your facts straight. 

  • Craig March 12, 2018 (10:15 am)

    my only disappointment is that they are not going to dynamite the Viaduct, they are going to slowly dismantle it with bulldozers.   Bummer, that would have been a heck of a show. 

  • Already Ready to Toll March 12, 2018 (8:31 pm)

    Not trying to one-up any of the other commenters or the article author, but the signs for the tolls are already hanging at the entrance/exit of the tunnel. If you ride your bike alongside the construction, on the dedicated bike lane to the west of the railroad tracks and look into the tunnel, you can see the signs already calling out the imminent tolling.

    Also, if you’re committed to riding that trail every day, you won’t have to worry about the toll. It’s a nice ride, I encourage it.

    • WSB March 12, 2018 (8:49 pm)

      Whether it’ll be tolled or not has never been at issue – it’s been in the plan from the start. Or are you saying the signs show an *amount* for the toll? That would be news.

      • Already Ready to Toll March 12, 2018 (9:29 pm)

        I’m not tall enough to see the base of the sign, so I’m not sure. The sighting tempted me to hop the fence and take a gander, but it’s not worth the trespassing fine.

        Anyone with a drone???

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