Highway 99 tunnel tolls: Your chance to comment – online now, and in person @ West Seattle meeting soon

(WSDOT photo, looking north at southbound – upper – tunnel deck, earlier this month)

The Highway 99 tunnel, you’ve no doubt heard here and elsewhere, could open as soon as this fall. One last thing remains to be decided: The toll(s). Now, it’s time for public comment. Received this afternoon from the Washington State Transportation Commission:

The public process of setting toll rates for the State Route 99 tunnel is starting and the Washington State Transportation Commission is seeking public comment on toll rate options under consideration. Interested persons can provide comments to the commission at upcoming public meetings in Seattle or they can provide comments electronically starting today, Tuesday, May 22.

The commission has spent more than a year studying and assessing all aspects of tolling the SR 99 tunnel, including various toll rate levels, possible toll exemptions, estimated traffic diversion to city streets, and effects of tolling on freight movement. Based upon this analysis, the commission has developed three possible toll rate options, on which it now wants the public to weigh in.

The Legislature made the decision to toll the tunnel in 2012 (RCW 47.56.862). The commission is charged with making sure tolls generate enough revenue to cover specific costs as required under the law, including toll operations, maintenance, and debt payments associated with the construction of the tunnel. In 2018, the Legislature directed that initial toll rates will not cover future repair and replacement costs, such as for the roadway and ventilation systems for the SR 99 tunnel. Proposed future toll rate increases would need to be re-evaluated if the Legislature determines these costs should be covered by toll revenue.

Toll Rate Options

The three toll rate options currently under consideration would be in effect from when tolling begins in 2019 through at least June 2020:

Option A:

Toll rates range from $1.50 – $2.25 during peak travel times and $1 overnight.
The midday toll rate is $1.25.

There are four different toll rates over six time periods on weekdays.
Beginning in July 2022, toll rates increase 3 percent, every three years for all days of the week.

Option B:

Toll rates range from $1.50 – $2.25 during peak travel times and $1 overnight.
The midday toll rate is $1.

There are four different toll rates over eight time periods on weekdays.
Beginning in July 2020, there will be annual toll rate increases of 3.5 percent for five years that will apply to the weekday rates only.

Option C:

Toll rates range from $1.50 – $2.25 during peak travel times and $1 overnight.
The midday toll rate is $1.25.

There are five different toll rates over seven time periods on weekdays.
There are no toll rate increases during first five years of tolling. Then there are three toll rate increases of five percent each, taking place in July of 2024, 2029, and 2034, for all days of the week.

Public Comment Opportunities

The commission will hold public input meetings in early June in Seattle to gather comments on the three toll-rate options under consideration. The meetings are as follows:

· Monday, June 4
4 – 5 p.m.: Open house on tunnel project and tolling
5 – 6:30 p.m.: Public input meeting on tolling options
Seattle Public Library, Washington Mutual Foundation Room
1000 4th Ave., Seattle

· Tuesday, June 5
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.: Open house on tunnel project and tolling
6:30 – 8 p.m.: Public input meeting on tolling options
High Point Community Center, Multipurpose Room
6920 34th Ave. SW

· Wednesday, June 6
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.: Open house on tunnel project and tolling
6:30 – 8 p.m.: Public input meeting on tolling options
Phinney Center, Blue Building, Room #7
6532 Phinney Ave. N, Seattle

More information on the tolling options under consideration, and additional ways the public can comment, can be found on the commission’s web site under “pending actions” at: wstc.wa.gov. The Transportation Commission is taking public comment on these tolling options until July 17. An official proposal will be announced in mid-July 2018, followed by an additional public comment period before toll rates are finalized in fall 2018.

Here’s the direct link to the page with feedback options – scroll down. The “commission feedback form” link doesn’t appear to be working properly at the moment, so we’re sending a note to report that.

57 Replies to "Highway 99 tunnel tolls: Your chance to comment - online now, and in person @ West Seattle meeting soon"

  • Echo May 22, 2018 (3:27 pm)

    This is shocking!

    They are going to toll the tunnel?

  • The King May 22, 2018 (3:29 pm)

    Tolls???? Tacoma is going to start paying their drivers to be on the road…lol

  • they May 22, 2018 (3:32 pm)

    Maybe I missed it, I see each of the three options show increases as time goes on with different percentage point added based off the type of option. What I don’t see is when will the tolling stop based off of what option is used.

  • Guy lies May 22, 2018 (3:34 pm)

    Does it really matter? They will raise them every so often forever. 

  • DRW May 22, 2018 (3:40 pm)

    Cant wait to sit in Bumper to bumper traffic in a tunnel.

  • wsgal May 22, 2018 (4:35 pm)

    Tunnel will go down as one of the worst decisions this city ever made. Yes, it’ll remove the dilapidated viaduct but only worsen traffic for the west and south side, downtown, lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union – everywhere! What a never ending nightmare.

    • heartless May 22, 2018 (5:25 pm)

      Yeah.  I was in favor of tearing down viaduct + doing nothing.  I agree that the tunnel will not be a good service (ironically I’d actually be more for it if it were bigger and longer (hah!), but that didn’t happen).

      • Howard May 22, 2018 (9:34 pm)

        I voted against the tunnel, twice. I voted against Seahawks stadium, twice. And people say voting doesn’t matter. 

        • Jon Wright May 23, 2018 (9:21 am)

          Impressive that you managed to vote against the Seahawks stadium twice considering there was only one public referendum.

    • Mr J May 23, 2018 (10:05 am)

      To those with no long-term memory the tunnel was a State decision, the city vote never counted as it was never a city decision. Place you anger/disappointment on the correct individuals/departments. 

  • Vilagegreen May 22, 2018 (5:13 pm)

    @The King, ha! That’s pretty funny. 

  • gh May 22, 2018 (5:53 pm)


  • chemist May 22, 2018 (6:10 pm)
    Looks kind of higher than what 2014 had settled around.  I wonder if it’ll be like the 405 HOT lanes and they spend a lot of commute time charging the highest peak rates.

    the Advisory Committee on Tolling and Traffic Management (ACTT Committee) supports a tolling strategy similar to Scenario 7, which meets the $200 million funding target for the program while minimizing diversion. Toll rates studied in Scenario 7 ($1 tolls 24-hours per day with a $1.25 toll during the 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. peak periods) generate more than $1 billion in gross revenue over 30 years. In addition to paying for the required capital contribution, this revenue can pay for expenses such as toll collection costs, operations and maintenance of the tunnel and transportation system improvements needed to address diversion.

  • a May 22, 2018 (6:44 pm)

    Seattle doesn’t want a middle class. They are making that clear with the never ending taxes and tolls. They only want the rich and the homeless. Our quest to become San Francisco continues

  • Question Authority May 22, 2018 (6:45 pm)

    Boo Hoo, you just used the Viaduct free of charge for decade upon decade and now you don’t want to pay for an improvement.  Try asking any contractor to do work modernizing your home for free and let us know how that turns out.

    • Chemist May 22, 2018 (7:50 pm)

        Yeah, all that vaiduct funding we’ve been contributing for over a decade + the Port of Seattle contribution (perhaps coming from the port levy authority) + city contributions, including a LID.


      2005 Transportation Partnership

      The money and what it means to you

      Legislature passed a new transportation revenue package to fund 274
      projects across the state over the next 16 years. The package includes:

      • 9.5 cents gas tax increase phased in over four years – $5.5 billion
      • Vehicle Weight Fee on passenger cars – $908 million
      • The light truck weight fee increase – $436 million
      • Annual motor home fee of $75 – $130 million


      Alaskan Way Viaduct – $2 billion
      This is the State’s contribution towards replacing this aging and earthquake vulnerable structure. Learn more about the Alaskan Way Viaduct project.

    • Howard May 22, 2018 (9:36 pm)

      QA – The Viaduct was free? Huh, i guess facts really dont matter anymore. 

    • Bmcclullan May 23, 2018 (12:09 am)

      Winner of the most uneducated, stupid comment of the day!

  • wetone May 22, 2018 (7:26 pm)

      No tolls. Tunnel deal from the start was laughable at best. When it cost more to maintain and collect it’s tolls over next 20yrs, than price to build tunnel you got a problem… But city’s political party and others pulled it off anyway. It is a great engineering marvel, but not what people of Seattle needed. Much blame goes to people of this city, got to quit drinking city’s koolade,  do some research before one votes. One of the most expensive, and backwards pieces of roadwork in the U.S. for what it was sold as.  Viaduct could of been retrofitted for a fraction of tunnel cost or much better options used that would help traffic not hinder. People need to wake up as there is so much in this city’s infrastructure needing REAL repair or replacement. Viaduct was not one of them. Just get ready for much more taxes/levy’s coming soon……………. all one has to do is look at city’s (pet) projects going on now and what real work is needed now or soon. Seattle will be known as the most expensive city in US to live shortly….

    • heartless May 23, 2018 (7:27 pm)

      Wait, you wanted to KEEP the viaduct?  

      I’m with you on disliking the tunnel, but that viaduct did have to go.

      (Also if you’re truly a betting man I’ll take your wager that Seattle will shortly become the most expensive city in the US–say 5 years from now we revisit the topic and settle up?  Loser buys the beers?)

  • Chris May 22, 2018 (9:07 pm)

    #*%+#^ ers.

  • Gerry May 22, 2018 (10:40 pm)

    Can’t wait until the I-5 is worse than ever because people are avoiding the 99 tunnel tolls.

    • HelperMonkey May 23, 2018 (11:08 am)

      it’s not just the tolls they’ll be avoiding, they’ll be trying to get downtown. since the tunnel lacks any downtown access, it will be far worse on both I-5 and surface streets. the toll doesn’t even figure into my reasons for not using the tunnel – I just don’t have any use for it if it doesn’t get me where I need to go downtown, like 99 currently does. 

  • Jeannie May 22, 2018 (11:26 pm)

    Considering all the f- ups, including cost overruns, unexpected breakdowns (ah, Bertha!) and delays, and all the $$$ that has already been spent/wasted, I say enough already! 

    My favorite part: “… In addition to paying for the required capital contribution, this revenue can pay for expenses such as toll collection costs…” Umm…if we didn’t have a toll, there would be no “toll collection costs”!

  • SeaJar May 23, 2018 (5:57 am)

    The tolling plans all seem reasonable to me and not that different from each other.  Personally, I am looking forward to using the tunnel daily, expecting it to be a much smoother run from the WS Bridge to SLU and points north compared to the current S curves.  I’ll miss the viaduct, too, but in the big picture it’s a terrible thing to have running along our urban waterfront, even if it wasn’t going to fall down.  As for tolling in principle, it strikes me as fair that the road users should directly pay part of the costs.  It’s a fractional increase to the total cost of commuting by SOV and it’s not a new idea.

    • Miss the view, but... May 23, 2018 (12:05 pm)

      +1.  Well said.

      • Amy May 23, 2018 (8:34 pm)

        I’m semi excited for it as well! I’m expecting my commute to Fremont from WS to improve. Thanks for the info WS Blog! 

    • AJP May 23, 2018 (9:24 pm)

      Oh you, with the logic and reason and whatnot. 

  • Cid May 23, 2018 (6:37 am)

    I must say, I’ll miss the spectacular views from the Viaduct and the fact that you could actually, you know, EXIT somewhere in town instead of totally bypassing it all underground and then having to back track to get to the city. I know, I know…progress.

    • Stephen May 23, 2018 (11:52 am)

      I was going to say the same thing.  Without an exit downtown, the tunnel has little value.  Alternate north/south routes such as I-5 and 1st Ave. can get you downtown and won’t be tolled, so who is going to use this tunnel?

      • Tsurly May 23, 2018 (1:25 pm)

         From the WSDOT project page:


        Major elements of the project include:

         – A two-mile-long tunnel beneath downtown Seattle.

        –  A mile-long stretch
        of new highway that connects to the south entrance of the tunnel, near
        Seattle’s stadiums.

        –  A new overpass at the
        south end of downtown that allows traffic to bypass train blockages near
        Seattle’s busiest port terminal.

        –  Demolition of the viaduct’s
        downtown waterfront section.

        –  A new Alaskan Way
        surface street along the waterfront that connects SR 99 to downtown. HERE IS YOUR EXIT TO DOWNTOWN

         Below that you will find:

        As part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, our
        partner agencies are planning street, transit and waterfront improvements

        The purpose of the tunnel, as stated from the beginning, is not just for movement of single occupancy vehicles. It is also intended to rid the waterfront of the ugly, antiquated Viaduct so people can enjoy it. 



  • Jort May 23, 2018 (6:54 am)

    Just a reminder that this tunnel cost $1.6 billion per mile, which is 13,323 percent more than the supposedly “outrageous” cost of building the recent bike lanes on 2nd Avenue. 

    Roads cost money. LOTS of money! 

    • Chemist May 23, 2018 (10:19 am)

      The cost of an underground tunnel with 4 lanes vs street level projects sure can be different.    Imagine if we rebuilt the 10,560 ft tunnel with a viaduct made out of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers (1,092 ft ea) at $8.5 billion each segment… $80+ billion dollars.

    • a May 23, 2018 (12:37 pm)

      Just a reminder that less than 5 percent of the population commute by bike. I’ve thought from the beginning that the tunnel was a terrible idea and huge waste of money. That being said, it is also a huge waste of money to spend $12 million per mile on bike lanes when as stated above less than 5 percent of the people will use them

    • My two cents ... May 23, 2018 (1:38 pm)

      @jort – Have you considered that the tunnel will carry more passengers and more freight per vehicle than a bike? Have you considered the number of vehicles that will use each X mile of ht tunnel versus the each X mile of a bike lane? My point is that you are trying to compare an iMac with a Honeycrisp … they are both “apples” but in name only. 

      Costs are high, agreed – on the tunnel AND on the bike lanes, but a blanket statement of X percent higher is even more “outrageous” does not truly reflect the various factors and perspective on the comparison.

    • AJP May 23, 2018 (9:26 pm)

      It’s funny how people want all those cyclists off their bikes, and instead sitting in cars on the road with them.

    • Helpful May 24, 2018 (12:50 am)

      And don’t forget that a 13 mile long roller coaster made of solid gold Rolex Pokemon cards, with 3 mag-lev loopty loops, and a Beechers Cheese fun island- cost an estimated Eleventy Kazillion bit burgers. Called ambitious and unnecessary by some, the Griftcoaster is certainly a reasonable expenditure to meet the diverse needs of a dynamic and ever-changing Seattle population.

  • Felix Grounds May 23, 2018 (7:14 am)

    I just consider the toll to be the price I pay to laugh at the “It will never get finished” crowd.

    Totally worth it!

  • Mark Schletty May 23, 2018 (8:22 am)

    Pay a toll to drive through a no downtown exit, below water level tunnel with a major earthquake fault line running right through it? No thanks.

    • DaveG May 23, 2018 (6:01 pm)

      Did Mr. Schletty become an engineer recently? 

  • MJ May 23, 2018 (8:55 am)

    Paying a Toll is reasonable, but in exchange for paying a Toll I expect a higher level of service.  In other word, paying a toll to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic is not acceptable.

  • K. Davis May 23, 2018 (8:58 am)

    I am ever so grateful for the malcontents writing above complaining about the tolling of the tunnel or that we should all be riding bicycles or that government is always corrupt/inept (which is it?  Please pick one) or other foolish ranting (bicycle dude especially). 

    Please – continue to stand on your (misguided) principles and never use the tunnel.  The rest of us will thank you for staying out of our way.  

  • Rick May 23, 2018 (9:52 am)

    The self righteous sanctimonious section has 1st amendment rights too. I could come up with other adjectives but I’m trying to stay civil. 

  • artsea May 23, 2018 (10:57 am)

    I remember when a toll road was built near Chicago.  They said once the construction costs had been paid with tolls, the tolls would stop.  When that time came, it was announced that the tolls would continue to cover the ongoing cost of maintaining the road.  Once we’re paying a tax or a toll, it’s very unlikely that will ever end.  

    • a May 23, 2018 (12:41 pm)

      ☝ here’s someone who gets it

    • Highly Unlikely May 23, 2018 (9:04 pm)

      The Hood Canal Bridge was indeed a toll bridge for a few years. The toll booths and tolls were eliminated in 1982.

    • Alki Mark May 25, 2018 (3:11 pm)

      The 520 had toll booths also, then they went down when it was paid for.   Then they appeared again years later.  Imagine.

      • Jon Wright May 25, 2018 (6:22 pm)

        Regarding 520 “toll booths” that “appeared again years later”: Did you notice any other changes with 520? 

  • R May 25, 2018 (3:09 pm)

    That tunnel freaks me out! I’d rather be stuck in traffic. 

  • Carol L Davis June 8, 2018 (7:01 am)

    I vote for C. 

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