By Randall Hauk
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The Washington State Transportation Commission held an open house and public input meeting at High Point Community Center last night, seeking public comment on tolling proposals for the Highway 99 tunnel.
It was the second of three Seattle meetings between the commission and residents. Commissioner Roy Jennings opened the meeting by reminding those in attendance that the decision to toll the tunnel had already been made and was no longer up for debate. The commission instead was seeking input on a trio of toll-rate options.
Though all three plans are projected to meet the project’s fiscal obligations by 2045, they differ in price fluctuations throughout the day, as well as how increases are scheduled.
The highest toll rate of $2.25 is slated for weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in all three options.
Otherwise, tolls would range from $1.00 for late nights and weekends to $1.75 depending on the time the vehicle passes the toll point upon exiting the tunnel.
More notable was the difference in the handling of toll increases over time. Option A proposes a 3% increase every three years, beginning in 2022. Option B plans 3.5% increases every year between 2020 and 2024. Option C has just three increases, but at a 5% rate.
Additionally, drivers without a Good to Go! pass on their vehicle will see an additional $2 per toll when their toll bill arrives in the mail.
The tunnel, set to open as soon as this fall, will initially be free to use while tolling equipment and systems are tested.
With only three community members present for the hearing, Jennings was able to ask each attendee directly for their personal preference.. While there was not overwhelming enthusiasm for any of the options, the West Seattle contingent was united unanimously against Option B.
Despite a low turnout for the second consecutive night, senior financial analyst Carl See says the commission has already been receiving public comments online and that none of the three options has become the clear public favorite. See also noted that a significant number of comments centered on “no tolls.”
A feedback form on the commission’s website, available since May 22, will continue to be open for public comment through (updated) July 17, as explained here.
The final public meeting will be held tonight at the Phinney Neighborhood Center (6532 Phinney Ave. N.), with the open house beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting at 6:30 p.m. The commission is expected to decide next month on one option for the last round of public review, before the final toll-setting decision sometime in the fall.