Viaduct-to-tunnel transition: Toll decision expected next week

(WSDOT photo)

The Highway 99 tunnel is set to open in early February, after three weeks of road-realignment work following the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent closure on January 11th. It’ll be toll-free for a trial period at the start. Once that’s over – what will you be charged? That decision is expected to be made by the State Transportation Commission next week, after one last public hearing (11 am Tuesday, October 16th, in Olympia). Here’s the plan, with rates ranging from $1 to $2.25 (provided you sign up for Good To Go):

If you can’t be at that hearing but have something to say, the commission is taking written comment through tomorrow – scroll down this page to find out how.

P.S. Reminder that more prep work brings a closure oF SB 99 this weekend – details here.

74 Replies to "Viaduct-to-tunnel transition: Toll decision expected next week"

  • Smittytheclown October 10, 2018 (4:15 pm)

    I sure hope that it is wider than this photo makes it look. It appears to be almost exactly as wide as the current Battery Street Tunnel. We know how well that works. At least a monthly crash over a MUCH shorter distance.

    Maybe next time they will let a SUV in there for scale.

  • chris October 10, 2018 (4:24 pm)

    Yep, use it 5 days a week- back and forth to work -52 weeks of the year $780 . Good for the folks who have that kinda money laying around for transportation. All others- longer trek to work and making it more congested on other already congested road during commute time. WIN, WIN -not

    • Question Authority October 10, 2018 (6:41 pm)

      There are other alternatives available to you and anyone facing the same commute.
      #1 Lessen your expenses to afford it.
      #2 Move closer to your job.
      #3 Seek new employment.
      #4 Carpool/Transit options.
      #5 Participate in the future of Seattle and realize the Viaduct was, and is doomed and things change whether you like it or not.

      • Rick October 10, 2018 (8:38 pm)

        Some groups are just really what good at telling others what to do while taking their money. No surprise in Seattle.

      • Bob F Forrest October 11, 2018 (5:22 pm)

        Thank you for solving all my problems, comrade. May I polish your boots in gratitude?

    • Canton October 10, 2018 (7:59 pm)

      Yeah, use it the same, through the work week. Gonna have to quit my job of 15+ years, to work South. My employer can’t cover the tolls, as I can’t. Once everyone is “good to go”, the tolls will eventually rise to 10 bucks per passing, like 520. Then congestion tolling, around the city core, and per mile taxing in the works. Just execute drivers, the water torture is taking too long…. And cue… jort.

      • Canton Comeback October 29, 2018 (5:37 pm)

        the tolls are slated to be discontinued once the “unfunded” portion of the tunnel is covered.  If you have to quit your job because of a ~$20 /week toll then perhaps you really do need a new job. cut back on your alcohol/tobacco consumption to fund your transport to work.also, the tolls aren’t $10 per passing on 520 if you use good to go.its understood that tolls are a nuisance (to some) but remember we don’t own the roads nor the land underneath.  thinking that we have a “right” to free roads is absurd.  even people that ride the bus pay for roads in some form or fashion with taxes. if true costs of roads were passed on to SOVs most people wouldnt drive

        • 56bricks October 29, 2018 (6:03 pm)

          Yeah,we surely don’t own roads we’ve already paid dearly for. And while we’re all cutting back so we can continue to pay and pay, we can just cut back on heart medications,cancer pills and the likes. Glad you know what’s best for the rest of the world.

  • Chris October 10, 2018 (4:28 pm)

    Actually, not $720 even better $975 going to work and coming home as it is more expensive in the afternoon. For those who have an extra grand for transport.

    • AIDM October 10, 2018 (8:21 pm)

      Keep in mind that your car is costing you $5-35k amortized over 5-10 years = $500-$7000, your insurance is costing you 500 per month = $6000, and your gas is costing you 20 miles/(20 miles/gallon)/($3.50/gallon)=$910 so its only a 10% increase. You can either pay it in tolls or pay it in taxes, but nice things do cost money. Or you can take another route and pay for it in time. But then time is money ;-)

      • rpo October 10, 2018 (10:29 pm)

        Who pays $500/month for auto insurance? Dang, that must take a ton of tickets to rack up rates that high!!!

  • valvashon October 10, 2018 (4:30 pm)

    There’s really only two lanes in this thing? I thought there was going to be two general purpose lanes and one carpool/bus lane. Pay to sit, I guess.

    • DelridgeRF October 10, 2018 (6:44 pm)

      Yes, it’s really only two lanes. Which is part of why I was against this moronic “fix” from day one. Way too late to do anything about it now.

      • helpermonkey October 11, 2018 (10:18 am)

        two lanes, neither of which exit downtown. good planning. *eye roll*

        • KBear October 11, 2018 (3:49 pm)

          Helpermonkey, you’ll be able to exit DOWNTOWN right before or right after the tunnel. Just because it isn’t Seneca doesn’t mean it’s not downtown.

          • zark00 October 12, 2018 (10:12 am)


  • coffeedude October 10, 2018 (4:38 pm)

    Like the 520, I will skip this route. I have yet to go on the “new” 520 and will not use this route either.

    • Nolan October 10, 2018 (5:03 pm)

      Then the toll is working as intended. Good on you for not contributing to a city choking on its own traffic.

      • DelridgeRF October 10, 2018 (6:45 pm)

        Yeah, instead he’ll clog up 1st or 4th Avenue or I-5. And those routes can *totally* take the added traffic.

        • Nolan October 10, 2018 (8:14 pm)

          If they want to drive, but not pay a toll, then that’s their choice to make. The rest of us will enjoy the lighter load on a transit-critical route.

    • Mike October 10, 2018 (10:47 pm)

      I love the Lake Washington Autobahn. Y’all like sitting in traffic on i90, have fun.

  • Steve October 10, 2018 (4:39 pm)

    Is the toll only for the HOV lanes?

    • WSB October 10, 2018 (4:40 pm)

      No, toll is for all tunnel users once the toll-free opening period us over.

  • Rick October 10, 2018 (5:30 pm)

    Did you really think they would even care?

  • MJ October 10, 2018 (6:11 pm)

    In exchange for paying a toll I expect not to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. It is BS to pay a toll if you are not given a better travel time.

    • Swede. October 11, 2018 (5:52 am)

      Good luck with that!

  • tiredofgovernmentgreed October 10, 2018 (7:10 pm)

    Our $3B+ new tunnel doesn’t even have enough room to the side for stalled cars to get out of the way of traffic. This two-lane toll tunnel will be backed up regularly and soon be recognized as a monument to our local government’s ineptitude.

    • Ron Swanson October 10, 2018 (9:41 pm)

      It has an 8′ shoulder for disabled vehicles. The existing viaduct has none except short stretches where the never-built ramps were. Sounds like an improvement to me, but why let facts get in the way of a good rant?

      • Smittytheclown October 11, 2018 (5:25 am)

        That photo is really deceiving then. If that space on the left between the yellow line and the wall is 8 feet, then the car lanes must be close to 16 feet each? Could have made it three lanes, right?

      • Swede. October 11, 2018 (5:54 am)

        Looking at the picture, which is from the ACTUAL tunnel, there is about two feet on one side and maybe four on the other. A stalled/broken down car WILL definitely block one lane.

        • West Sea Commuter October 11, 2018 (7:57 am)

          There is indeed an 8 foot shoulder. A quick check of the FAQ on WSDOT’s website reveals:

          “Each direction of the tunnel will have two 11-foot travel lanes with an eight-foot safety shoulder and a two-foot shoulder. These lanes will ensure enough space for all vehicles and legal size trucks.”

      • DelridgeRF October 11, 2018 (3:57 pm)

        @Ron Swanson: Great, but it’s also one to two fewer lanes than the viaduct, so…not really an improvement. How about that fact?

  • TJ October 10, 2018 (7:13 pm)

    We can complain about the toll all we want, and about avoiding it (I am one who will not use the tunnel). But understand that we have out of touch politicians here that want to put tolls on city streets getting into town as well. Everyone needs to let our disconnected leaders know that we pay tolls to pay for new roads, not existing surface streets. We are getting to a boiling point now where people are fed up with the amount of money spent on bike and bus lanes. Time for the city to understand cars aren’t going away.

    • Nolan October 10, 2018 (8:13 pm)

      On the contrary, the people “out of touch” are the ones that insist that everyone driving their own car everywhere they want is sustainable, transit and pedestrians be damned. Like you, for instance.

      Believe it or not, the city’s traffic engineers know better than you. I for one will happily throw my political support behind grade-separated transit and congestion charges, because they are the *only* way to solve the mess you and yours have created.

      • zark00 October 12, 2018 (10:23 am)

        Incorrect. Seattle’s “traffic engineers” consistently get our city ranked among the worst in the nation for congestion and transit times. They are objectively terrible at their jobs. You could do better by randomly throwing darts. You clearly have no idea why they built this tunnel – hint it has nothing to do with improving traffic and everything to do with increasing land values. You, me and all of us were sold down the river.

        • Nolan October 12, 2018 (12:22 pm)

          There’s a world of difference between a sinking ship and a sinking ship with an active water pump keeping t afloat for longer, yet all you see is the sinking and decide the water pump is being wasted. Typical shortsightedness.

    • Delridger October 10, 2018 (8:48 pm)

      I’ve been writing letters in support of congestion pricing. I’d love to see less traffic downtown and more money spent to make alternatives safer and more efficient.

    • Lacey October 10, 2018 (8:55 pm)

      No, people are just directing their anger/road rage from being stuck in traffic towards bicyclists and buses (interesting how they are the ones less affected by the terrible traffic..) The future is not in SOV’s. I gave up trying to drive my car downtown to work over 4 years ago because it got so bad. It’s actually faster for me to bike from West Seattle, which is telling of how bad it has gotten. The population is only going to increase. Cars aren’t the answer, and neither is this tunnel

    • KM October 10, 2018 (10:30 pm)

      What you consider “out of touch” I consider awesome. Bring on all the tolls!

  • West Seattle Hipster October 10, 2018 (7:28 pm)

    Thanks for the tip on the viaduct closure this weekend, hadn’t heard a word from other media………………………

  • Myron Rust October 10, 2018 (9:00 pm)

    The Evening Peak hour toll is to high, it should be the same as the morning peak hour of $1.50 Anything more is just simply ripping people off. with that higher price for the evening peak hour toll, you are just basically telling the drivers to drive on the main streets of downtown Seattle. This tunnel is supposed to help re leave traffic congestion, not get rich off the back of the citizens of Seattle, and the greater king county area.

    • highland park October 11, 2018 (2:51 pm)

      Purely anecdotal but I thought that SB evening traffic on the Viaduct got worse when they started tolling 520 and folks started using the SB viaduct to get to I-90. NB morning traffic is never as bad as SB evening traffic IMHO. I agree that surface streets are going to be a mess until people adjust their routes and/or decide to pay the 99 toll. Also Expedia is moving to Interbay in a couple of years so there will be more people commuting to/from Eastside. I started taking the bus instead of driving a few years ago and am happier for it, but I understand not everyone has that option.

  • Jeannie October 10, 2018 (10:46 pm)

    Let’s see…the tunnel had numerous delays and was way over budget. So I guess it’s our fault, so we need to pay the price!

  • Amused October 11, 2018 (5:52 am)

    I am laughing my a– off at everyone who voted for this thing!

    Enjoy your new commute.

    • Native October 11, 2018 (11:10 am)

      Like many issues in Seattle we have a vocal group who doesn’t support but they don’t vote.
      I believe the tunnel has 63000 people in a city of over 700000 vote it in.
      We have a councilwomen who signs immortalizing the Black panthers and unionizing Uber while the city goes to pot…
      She won with 5600 votes in a district of 100000 or more?
      Vote and these issues won’t keep croppping up and dump Sawant…Obrien.. and Herbold … Dec 19 is DDay and we keep running into the ground until then..

  • TJ October 11, 2018 (7:29 am)

    I can’t think of another city in the country that has tolls on streets to get to the city center. We already have paid for the streets. Trying to toll those now is a joke, and most people are against this. I am fine with tolls to pay for new bridges & tunnels. The tunnel though was designed so poorly though, with no more capacity rhan the viaduct, and with no downtown exits.

    • KM October 11, 2018 (10:56 pm)

      SF tolls 2 ways into the city. Not within city limits, but might be the closest comparison (also a much smaller area of a city). Hard to compare things city to city in general.

    • Mike October 13, 2018 (8:30 am)

      London has tolls and some of the biggest fees to have the privilege to drive in the city. What’s great is they also have a transit system that moves 8.5 Million residents and millions more visitors daily, 1,000x more efficiently, than Seattle moves 700k residents and a few thousand visitors daily. So, if we just want to go with what works and what does not based on tolls and fees… then tolls and fees win hands down. The difference is where the money of those tolls and fees goes to and if it’s enough to block people from paying to drive into downtown or not.

  • Ryan October 11, 2018 (7:40 am)

    The traffic engineers work with what they are given. The viaduct removal plan was based on money for gaining valuable land, views and other things on the waterfront, nothing more. The better solution would’ve been the one proposed to replace the viaduct with a sound, new, earthquake resistant model.

    Money makes the world go ’round, so wake up and grasp reality. If the city’s engineers, politicians, etc. over the years had ‘known better’ as it were, we’d have taken the federal grants offered to us in the late 60s, early 70s and have a proper light rail/train system connecting the neighborhoods and by now, reaching out to Tacoma, Everett and Issaquah. THEN, some of the statements you’ve made previously would make sense.

    • K. Davis October 11, 2018 (9:58 am)

      Please, Ryan, do enlighten us with your “facts” that the viaduct replacement was all about the waterfront and “nothing more”. So you’re saying the viaduct was a seismically stable structure and could remain in place safely? Please do explain your facts on that.
      Or are you saying that we should have built a brand new viaduct? At essentially the same cost as the tunnel, but with the bonus of SR 99 closed to all traffic for the 2+ years of construction? Please do share some “facts” with us.

      • zark00 October 12, 2018 (10:53 am)

        Ryan is completely right K Davis – this was almost 100% about increasing the property value on waterfront and waterfront adjacent property. WSDOT said this themselves:
        “WSDOT’s own statistics show that the tunnel, if completed, would likely increase traffic delays downtown compared with the rejected streets-and-transit plan.”
        “WSDOT officials say they expect about 30,000 people currently using the Viaduct to find alternative ways around town.” This was in response to ‘will people avoid the tunnel if it is tolled?’
        I have a developer in my family. They are EXTREMELY happy that the “idiots running Seattle” (their words) “chose” the tunnel (air quotes theirs too). They stand to make an absolute killing on the land they own that will now have waterfront views – like a staggering amount of money. We’re talking a piece of land that right now would be a mid-level condo with a couple units with views at the top is now planned to be a high-end condo complex with an entire side of the building (less the bottom two floors) with amazing views of the water. I cannot stress this enough, the upside gain here is unreal, like an absolutely insane amount of money they gain with ONE piece of property and the removal of the viaduct. The facts are there, you just have to pull yer head out for a sec and look.

        • wetone October 13, 2018 (7:20 pm)

          So true , ZARK00. City stroked the tax payers on this one. There are so many elevated road structures in Seattle that are much worse shape than viaduct was is in (when project started) that should of been higher on priority list of replacing. Viaduct could of been retrofitted at a fraction of tunnel cost or replaced with a new structure much cheaper than tunnel, associated roadway and infrastructure to support. Tunnel does little for what it cost and for all the future issues it will bring to most all.

    • A-A-ron October 11, 2018 (9:40 pm)

      Can’t blame the loss of the federal money in the 70s that went to Atlanta on “the city’s engineers, politicians, etc”. That was the voters, it was on the ballot. Direct democracy!

  • Jethro Marx October 11, 2018 (9:21 am)

    I can’t imagine why we hire engineers to design roads- it seems almost everyone who reads the blog is an expert, willing to provide free consulting. We could have eight lanes, exits every two blocks, twenty foot wide shoulders, and pay drivers to use it!

  • KBear October 11, 2018 (9:23 am)

    I can’t believe people are just now learning about this. Judging from the comments, a tax on misinformation would pay for the tunnel in a few short weeks.

  • smittytheclown October 11, 2018 (9:44 am)

    Boy, if those travel lanes are only 3-feet wider than the space between the yellow line and the wall that is a really freakishly deceiving photo.

  • Mr. J October 11, 2018 (10:37 am)

    Does anybody have a long term memory? No? This is a State Highway, the City has no part in deciding to replace it. The vote was a joke since the State made the decision. The tolls are a State issue not a City issue as well (referenced in the post). The anger is to late for this project. But you can still write your 34th district Reps and let them know your feelings in the toll amounts.

  • Blinkyjoe October 11, 2018 (11:42 am)

    If memory serves me correctly, the tunnel was voted down twice by Ze People, and Christine Gregoire forced it. ICBW, though.

    • dsa October 11, 2018 (2:32 pm)

      Gregoire did force it. This was not an engineering decision like so many want to believe.

  • dsa October 11, 2018 (11:49 am)

    The city had a major part in the decision because they insisted the seawall be replaced as part of a new viaduct or repair of the existing. The state chose another alignment away from the seawall freeing the state of the cost of the seawall, thus making the tunnel appear cost effective. In the end Seattle taxpayers alone are forced to pay for the seawall, which should have been the case in the first place if Seattle had been honest.

  • Alkimark October 11, 2018 (12:09 pm)

    So with all this new toll money is the city going to reduce property taxes?

  • Andromeda October 11, 2018 (12:18 pm)

    I support the toll, congestion pricing, more bike lanes, more bus and light rail, and any other incentives to get people out of single occupancy vehicles and into public transit, cycling, telecommuting and other options that will have a positive impact on just on traffic but on the health of the people and environment of this region.

  • momof3boys October 11, 2018 (12:47 pm)

    Any word on whether or not they’re going to offer a “deal” on good to go passes, for those who need to buy one now? In the past, they offer a free pass (that we load $$ onto) for new tolling structures. I need to get a couple for my kids.

  • AleAlki October 11, 2018 (12:56 pm)

    I get the feeling the water taxi will need to invest in a couple of larger shuttles…..maybe another boat and more sailing times too. I can’t seem to find that previous post, are those things already in the works?

  • smittytheclown October 11, 2018 (4:18 pm)

    I’m like a dog with a bone until someone gets in there with a tape measure. No way that safety shoulder is 8 feet. No. Way.

    • common sense October 28, 2018 (4:07 pm)

      so you are disputing the construction documents and everything that WSDOT has done as false? do you really think WSDOT would willfully lie to the public about how wide the lanes are?

      do the math.

      58′ diameter bored tunnel. 2 travel lanes north/south stacked on each other 11′ ea for a total of 22′ ft.(see the math I did there?) so given that the tunnel is 58′ wide only at the mid section we lose some horizontal length as we travel to top or bottom of the tunnel. the formula is as follows for the chord length with is what is basically what is described above “Twice the radius times the sine of half the angle in radians” but i wont do the math because you wont understand anyway.

      lets just assume we lose around 10′ ft of horizontal distance. 48′ total now minus 22′ gives us 26 ft to work with. both “sides” of the tunnel contain emergency passages with one being accessible to people. most likely 8′ in width at the base. the other close to 4. that leaves roughly 14 ft to work with. safety shoulder of 8′ leaves 6 ft more . 2-3 ft on the other side gives 3-4 ft left which is the wall thickness separating the travel lanes from the emergency lanes

      do a little bit of research before you make a bone head comment.

  • Nancy R. October 11, 2018 (4:35 pm)

    I don’t usually bike when I go downtown, I take the C line, use the water taxi, or drive my car. But this morning I biked downtown. It took 20 minutes to get from West Seattle to Pioneer Square. That’s not much. Give it a try people! If you don’t like exercise, use an E bike.

  • Terence Scanlan October 11, 2018 (4:56 pm)

    Incorrect on both counts. The tunnel vote was about a “cut and cover” tunnel … not about this project.

    I can’t believe people are still re-litigating this issue on incorrect information. There were 5 choices: 1. Do nothing and wait for the earthquake … 2. Put a band-aid on the old viaduct (engineers recognized would not be seismically safe) … 3. Tear down viaduct and go with no through highway (stupid) … 4. Tear down and rebuild viaduct (at about the same cost as tunnel and still a seismically vulnerable structure and we live through 2-3 years of hell with no viaduct at all during construction) and 5. the deep bore tunnel we have now.

    I understand some folks don’t like choice 5 – more power to you for your opinion. But do know the facts. The tunnel choice was the best solution to a transportation problem. Not a perfect solution … but the best choice among the real-world options.

  • Au October 12, 2018 (1:08 pm)

    WSB, I remember that as well. My kids one day said to me ‘they are replacing the viaduct with a deep bore tunnel’, I told them that couldn’t be true, it was never even an option. And it wasn’t, but that’s what we get now.

    Who pays (state or city) the utility bill to operate this thing? Ya know it uses about 600x the amount of electricity as a surface road (or modern viaduct).

  • MV October 15, 2018 (11:49 am)

    Tolls pay the utility bill to operate.

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