FOLLOWUP: Tunnel tolls finalized, plus other Highway 99 notes – including a change to this weekend’s closure plan

(WSDOT photo: NB view inside the tunnel, from August)

1:34 PM: The state Transportation Commission has finalized the toll rates for the Highway 99 tunnel – $1 to $2.25, depending on daypart, providing you use Good To Go. From the announcement:

On weekdays, tolls will be $1.50 during the morning peak commute (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.), $2.25 during the evening peak commute (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), and $1.25 during non-peak hours between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Overnight (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekend tolls will be $1.00. Toll rates will increase by 3 percent every three years beginning in July 2022, subject to annual review by the Transportation Commission.

The Transportation Commission has previously determined that there will be consistent exemptions on all toll facilities for public transit, emergency responders, highway maintenance vehicles, school buses and qualified private buses, which serve the public or commuters.

State law requires that SR 99 tunnel tolls be used to repay $200 million borrowed to build the tunnel as well as related debt service costs, and ongoing operations, maintenance, and safety costs.

Drivers will not be charged immediately when the tunnel opens in early February. The start date has not been set, but it will apparently be months after the tunnel opens rather than weeks – this WSDOT Blog report about traffic-pattern changes expected when the tunnel opens says tolling is “expected to begin as soon as summer 2019.” In the meantime, until tolling begins, the report says, WSDOT is projecting more drivers will use the tunnel than currently use the Viaduct. … While we’re discussing Highway 99, yet another reminder that it will be closed BOTH WAYS this weekend, starting Friday night (October 19th) for inspection plus some viaduct-to-tunnel-transition work. As always, if the closure ends early, we’ll update you here.

4:21 PM: And we have an update already. The NB part of this weekend’s closure will be shorter. From the WSDOT website: “Northbound SR 99 will close Saturday, Oct. 20 at 6 a.m. and reopen Saturday afternoon by 5 p.m. The southbound closure remains unchanged.”

19 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Tunnel tolls finalized, plus other Highway 99 notes - including a change to this weekend's closure plan"

  • Eddie October 17, 2018 (2:55 pm)

    Northbound 99 from west seattle, where exactly will the exit be that takes me over toward 1st, 2nd, etc.? I’ve heard it referred to as Dearborn, but I can’t visualize where that would be, nor do I see anything that looks like preparations for an offramp.

    • Marty2 October 17, 2018 (5:06 pm)

      I believe the new Northbound exit to Dearborn will be in the vicinity of Royal Brougham Way. You can see part of the off ramp bridge structure off to the left as you are going northbound on SR99 just north of Royal Brougham.

  • HS October 17, 2018 (3:44 pm)

    Cheaper than the $2.75 bus fare.

    • KM October 17, 2018 (4:29 pm)

      A toll is not the only cost of driving.

    • Swede. October 17, 2018 (5:18 pm)

      And the $2.75 busfair is cheaper than one gallon of gas, and especially diesel.

      So what’s your point?

      • HS October 17, 2018 (9:42 pm)

        My point is that the toll isn’t a disincentive – either to cause drivers to use alternative routes in an effort to avoid paying a toll but also not enough to push short route drivers into using the bus.

        • Swede. October 18, 2018 (12:25 pm)

          I bet you downtown will be clogged up with drivers not wanting to pay. Just look at 520, still very light traffic years after they open and tolled it! I used to ride my motorcycle over there just when they open and it was literally empty. And with no good way to get off the tunnel route downtown it will be even worse, especially after Metro take two lanes off 4th Ave. as buslanes.

          • HS October 18, 2018 (1:59 pm)

            I don’t think so. From what I understand some roadways downtown are being reconfigured for bus priority, one way routes, etc. The stages of process seem very similar to what I’ve seen in European cities, meaning, get people in-and-out for work, centralized pedestrian and local transit priority with emphasis on localized corridor people circulation. Drivers and freight going “thru” are rerouted around (but not too far around).

  • KBear October 17, 2018 (3:51 pm)

    Eddie, Check the project web site:

    • WSB October 17, 2018 (4:19 pm)

      Thanks, I’m sorry, we’ve reported this multiple times but I don’t have a handy quick answer. But yes, it will be Dearborn. That’s why we’ll basically not be using NB 99 into downtown for a couple more weeks beyond the initial closure – finishing construction and tying everything in. Here’s one story from 2016:

      I was looking for another link and discovered that THIS weekend’s closure plan has just changed – so sidetracked again and updating the story above – TR

  • ScottAmick October 17, 2018 (7:06 pm)

    When anyone hears Dearborn is the exit from the new 99 just remember it’s about a one block long segment of new street that happens to align with Dearborn further east. CenturyLink Field interrupts Dearborn so don’t think you can really use Dearborn to 4th Ave or Rainier. For reference – this block of Dearborn is in front of the maintenance/exhaust fan building with the bright green/yellow stacks on it.

  • junctioneer October 18, 2018 (9:34 am)

    I find it curious that the evening commute is more expensive than the morning. My experience says taking 99 home to West Seattle is a breeze, traffic is flowing quite fast and can get to WS in 10 minutes or less, but in the morning the commute is stop and go and is double. Maybe traffic flows faster due to the onramp situation but there are still more cars? Or maybe with the new onramp situation the evenings will now be worse than the mornings?

  • zark00 October 18, 2018 (10:28 am)

    The debacle that is the tunnel continues. What a nightmare.

  • disgusted October 18, 2018 (12:26 pm)

    Can someone explain how tolls like this work for people who don’t buy one of those passes? I’ve never used 520 since they began tolling, and the last time I went through a toll road it was down at Tacoma, and I had to stop and give them money. If we don’t have a pass because we’re not going to use this f$%& boondoggle piece of crap that often, is there going to be one of the two lanes of traffic (TWO!!! ffs) slowed down so that we can throw exact change in a booth? I mean, that can’t possibly be it, right? So how does it work–they photograph your license plate and send you a bill for $1.25? That seems patently ridiculous, either way. Or are you just not allowed to take the route if you don’t pony up ahead of time for a freaking pass?

    • WSB October 18, 2018 (12:54 pm)

      No slowing down, no tollbooth. If you don’t have Good To Go, there are camera(s) that catch your license plate and send you a bill. It’ll be $2 more than the regular toll rate. Same thing as the state does with for example the 520 bridge. I have driven that twice in recent years and received the bills, as we have never gotten a GTG. Not sure we’re going to do that for the tunnel either, but if this had happened several years ago when I had a teenager who needed to be transported to an activity venue in Green Lake multiple times a week, I would have …

      • disgusted October 19, 2018 (12:25 pm)

        Unbelievable. That’s just criminal, charging $2 more just because you’re not wealthy enough to buy a freaking pass to use one of the only roads north or south. I don’t have the option of not driving, and I’m barely scraping by.

  • 1994 October 18, 2018 (8:15 pm)

    I never drove on Highway 520 once the tolling began but I got a bill in the mail for driving 520 for not having a Good To Go pass – failure to pay the toll. I called the tolling contractor to ask for the photo of my license plate. I was put on hold for a few minutes, then I was told the photo is fuzzy and they would waive the bill. They guessed at the fuzzy license plate numbers or letters they could not read and mailed me a bill for failure to pay! I was astounded the tolling contractor would simply ‘assign’ the rest of the numbers or letters that they could NOT read. Highway robbery in a literal sense!

  • douglas reed October 21, 2018 (6:36 am)

    if you get a photo bill or ticket just respond- “i was not driving the vehicle, and am not comfortable giving you the name of person that was driving. Case dismissed!

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