UPDATE: Start date announced for Highway 99 tunnel tolling, and news of a bus plan on the horizon

11:02 AM: Today the signage for the Highway 99 tunnel says FREE, but not for much longer. At a media briefing near the tunnel’s north end, WSDOT has just announced tolling will begin November 9. Details to come.

11:23 AM: The briefing is wrapping up and there’s been another announcement of sorts: SDOT’s Heather Marx says they are about to announce a plan for addressing the West Seattle bus slowdowns. Plus they’ll have a plan for the Dearborn demolition of the remaining Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition. The reroute details are almost ready to go.

11:46 AM: New since the announcement:

A few other notes from the briefing: If you already have a Good To Go! sticker, you’re set. If not, get one – you can do it online, free if you act fast.

(Good To Go sticker, held by WSDOT’s Patty Rubstello)

Otherwise, if you take the tunnel once tolling begins but don’t have one, you’ll get a bill in the mail, at a higher rate (as is the case now with other WSDOT facilities that use GTG such as the 520 bridge across Lake Washington). With GTG, as set by the state Transportation Commission last year, the tolls will range from $1 to $2.25 depending on time of day. The tolls are meant to raise $200 million of the tunnel’s cost.

Another note from the briefing – a few new SDOT catchphrases detected. For example, Marx (who lives in West Seattle) repeatdly stressed that your “commute decision is a community decision.” Also, she mentioned a new program that’ll involve large employers, to be called Flip Your Trip. Also, a repeated reminder that years of the “Seattle Squeeze” remain.

The WSDOT and SDOT reps acknowledge – as they have all along – that the start of tolling could lead to a significant amount of “diversion” – people avoiding the tunnel – possibly up to 50 percent at the start. Currently they say the tunnel is up to about 80,000 vehicles a day.

45 Replies to "UPDATE: Start date announced for Highway 99 tunnel tolling, and news of a bus plan on the horizon"

  • dcn August 26, 2019 (11:19 am)

    You can still get a free Good To Go sticker pass. You’ll need to load it with money for the tolls, but it will save you $5. The website says it’ll take 4 weeks to arrive, so if you don’t have one yet, now’s the time. I just signed up for one: https://99tunnel.com/good-to-go.htm

  • riverviewresident August 26, 2019 (12:16 pm)

    The sticker I got years ago for 520 was taken away when I had my windshield replaced (oops!). I’ve never really needed the sticker since then because my license plates are in the system and associated with the GTG account I originally set up. Hopefully, this won’t change when 99 tolls begin. I really don’t want to establish a new account, because there is the requirement to keep a baseline balance in it and my existing account is already flush.

    • CMS August 27, 2019 (8:23 am)

      You should be fine with paying with your license plate, however I believe there is a .25 cent surcharge per toll, so you might think about ordering a replacement pass. You can get a free sticker pass while supplies last at 99tunnel.com.

  • Trickycoolj August 26, 2019 (12:46 pm)

    Is there a way to block the sticker when your an HOV elsewhere? We use 167 often and don’t want to pay the $9 tolls on holidays when visiting family (seems like the tolls auto schedule so weekday holidays cost as much as a weekday commute) Weekends wouldn’t be as bad but I don’t want to accidentally pay when we’re an HOV. 

    • Dcn August 26, 2019 (1:03 pm)

      I don’t know, but they had a questionnaire on the site, and one of them was whether you take the 167 or 405 HOV lanes. There are other non-sticker options, I think, for people who do use those lanes. 

    • Keith A Bacon August 26, 2019 (1:09 pm)

      You have to order a FlexPass, otherwise you will be charged every time you are in any toll lane, even if you are carpooling/exempt.  I attempted to order a FlexPass online just now but the instructions on how to do this with an existing Good to Go account don’t line up with reality! Tried calling and was on hold for 15 minutes before I gave up. 

    • sw August 26, 2019 (1:15 pm)

      You need a Flex Pass:  https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/flexpass.htmCosts more, but has the functionality you seek.

  • ELLY August 26, 2019 (1:38 pm)

    They better start allowing busses in the tunnel. They’ve been encouraging driving to South Lake Union because the new bus routes are longer than before the tunnel. Driving reduces my husband’s daily commute by an hour. He doesn’t want to drive but his family would like to see him during the week.

    • Pdxmark 77 August 26, 2019 (2:43 pm)

      Busses are allowed in the tunnel, just no routes go through the tunnel currently.Not sure what routes could use the tunnel since it bypasses downtown.

      • Skylar August 26, 2019 (4:53 pm)

        There’s no bus routes in the tunnel now, but it’s mind boggling that the state didn’t involve any transit agencies in the design of the tunnel (actually, no, it isn’t – this is WSDOT we’re talking about, where the only thing that matters is throwing down some cement for cars). If we had a functioning, frequent, and high-capacity street car system, though, buses could pop out of the tunnel at Republican, drop off their passengers at Westlake, then turn around to West Seattle for more. The passengers could transfer to a street car and get to any destination in SLU, downtown, First Hill, or Capitol Hill.Even as it is now, I don’t know why Metro can’t just use the tunnel, and run buses in the opposite direction as they are now (inbound going south, outbound going north). That would be even more appealing once tolls start and people divert to other routes even more.

        • Pdxmark77 August 26, 2019 (11:42 pm)

          Eventually the busses will go straight on Alaska Way (in dedicated bus lanes) and take Columbia to / from downtown to 3rd ave.In other words there will be a dedicated bus lane from West Seattle all the way into downtown.Not sure if running busses through the tunnel would really work,  there is lots of congestion in the SLU area with east / west bus lanes, busses will just get stuck in traffic like they do currently in the temporary route.

      • West Seattle since 1979 August 26, 2019 (7:43 pm)

        Maybe they need  a new route that goes straight to South Lake Union through the tunnel, bypassing downtown?  Maybe split the C route so that a certain number are “C Express” during commute times. 

        • J August 26, 2019 (10:11 pm)

          That’s a good idea! They should do the same with a 120 since the C doesn’t serve the east of west seattle (or white center/burien) very well

      • donarb August 27, 2019 (9:31 am)

        Busses that are exempt also include school busses and those commuter busses that Amazon and Microsoft run for their employees.

        • ELLY August 28, 2019 (9:17 pm)

          Amazon has their own buses which is great for them. Unfortunately they do not allow anyone else to pay to ride with them. There should be public transportation to SLU, through the publicly-funded tunnel. SLU, for better or worse has been recreated to be Seattle’s tech hub and many people who work there do not have a private bus. It’s where the tunnel leads…why there are not already bus routes there is baffling. The selling point of the tunnel is bypassing downtown but they make public buses wind all the way through it? Maddening.

  • MrsL August 26, 2019 (1:38 pm)

    There’s another option for paying the tolls without a Good-to-Go pass, called Pay-by-Plate. You can sign up for a pre-paid Good-to-Go account and just register your license plates. You can have a balance on your account that subtracts the toll amount. This method charges you the Good-to-Go toll plus a $0.25 surcharge. This option works best for our family as we don’t go north of downtown very often. https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/PassSelectionHelp/passOptions.htm

    • Bus rider August 26, 2019 (6:02 pm)

      I think Good-to-Go passes were being given away at the West Seattle Farmers Market earlier this month.

  • Kathy August 26, 2019 (3:09 pm)

    If you got a pass for free online, could you explain how that worked? Because they charged me $5 for it last week. Maybe there was a promo code I was not aware of.

  • Jort August 26, 2019 (3:49 pm)

    Fun fact: at the posted speed of 45 mph, if you divide the cost of the tunnel by the number of seconds you spend driving through it, it costs an astonishing $23.5 million per second traveled. $23 million, by the way, is more than the city of Seattle spends every year on those dastardly bike lanes that people have convinced themselves are soaking up all the spare money in the city’s budget. It should be noted that this driving-experience enhancement project is astonishingly expensive. Count to yourself as you drive through the tunnel and remember that, every second that passes by, you need to add $23.5 million.    

    • PBinHP August 26, 2019 (4:54 pm)

      Jort, just put a second person in the car and you can save $11.75 Million per second. You’d have to ride a bike about 300 light years to save that much. 

    • Sunrise Heights August 26, 2019 (6:33 pm)

      Hahahaha. Driving through the tunnel at 45 mph. Maybe 4.5 mph…

    • bolo August 26, 2019 (7:35 pm)

      Jort those numbers seem suspect. Can we see your work please?

      • Jort August 27, 2019 (12:09 pm)

        Sure. The speed limit is 45 mph. The tunnel is 9,270 feet long. At 45 mph, it takes 2 minutes, 20 seconds to drive 9,270 feet (140 seconds). The total budget of the project is $3.3 billion. Divide 3.3 billion by 140 seconds and you have $23.5 million per second. Feel free to double check the numbers, but no matter how you look at it, the tunnel is an astronomically expensive investment in destroying our planet and enabling further car driving in our region. Thanks for your question, have a great week.

    • The King August 26, 2019 (8:13 pm)

      If they go through with the $12,000,000 per mile bicycle lane, pedaling at 80 rpm per mile at a 5 or 6 minute clip, that’s $30,000 per pedal revolution. It takes you only three pedals to cost more than the average median income of a Seattle resident. Yay move Seattle. 

  • K August 26, 2019 (3:59 pm)

    If one can dream:  a “C express” or a “C rapider ride” (maybe just at peak hours) that skips downtown and goes straight to SLU- would make my dreams come true.

    • WS to SLU August 26, 2019 (6:33 pm)

      Yes please!

    • West Seattle since 1979 August 26, 2019 (7:46 pm)

      Yes! That’d be awesome. Please disregard my post— I hadn’t seen yours when I posted the same thing.

    • Seriously? August 26, 2019 (8:13 pm)

      Not every person in WS works at Amazon . . .they, too, have to get home from downtown . . .

      • J August 26, 2019 (10:17 pm)

        And not everyone lives on the C line route, so this sounds like a solution for a selective group of people. 

        • Seriously? August 28, 2019 (7:50 am)

          @J, Good ol’ Jeff has planted the idea that anyone who works for Amazon, other than the warehouse workers and deliver drivers, deserve special privileges, because you know, Amazon . . .

  • clark5080 August 26, 2019 (7:01 pm)

    I notice they didn’t say anything new about the program that would charge your toll onto your credit card and not have to  put money into an account I will rarely use. It was supposed to be working when the tolling started.

  • Keith August 26, 2019 (9:09 pm)

    I’m glad we’ll finally be able to pay for the tunnel.  I’ve been feeling guilty driving through it for free.

  • TreeHouse August 26, 2019 (9:51 pm)

    $1.00 to $2.25? That’s cheaper than a bus ride! We can all see what our politicians’ transportation priorities are. People like to complain about bike lanes but I’m tired of subsidizing MULTI-BILLION dollar car lanes that I don’t use! 

    • Sam August 27, 2019 (8:54 am)

      Agreed, the citizens of Seattle get the traffic they deserve. 

  • J August 26, 2019 (10:01 pm)

    I wonder what is considered a large employer, anyone know? My company employs 300 people in SLU and a lot of employees drive. Hoping the city can convince the company to be more open to remote work, or whatever “flip your trip” is. Can’t wait to hear more.

  • alki_2008 August 27, 2019 (8:51 am)

    Will they, or have they already, put signs that show the current toll BEFORE you enter the tunnel?  The last time I went through the tunnel, the signs that show cost “FREE” were after exiting the tunnel.I generally like to km now how much something costs before I use it.

    • WSB August 27, 2019 (10:38 am)

      At least one sign pre-tunnel. I have to ask WSDOT about something else today anyway so I’ll verify which one(s).

  • Mark August 27, 2019 (1:16 pm)

    What happens once they raise the 200 Million from tolls?  Will they stop tolling or just continue indefinitely?  If it goes on indefinitely, even after they reach that dollar mark, why even make that remark?

  • Scott Collins August 27, 2019 (9:01 pm)

    I’ve got bad news for y’all.  The 200M has nothing to do with paying off 6% of the tunnel cost.  It has to do with manipulating driver behavior so that vehicle traffic will be reduced based on cost.  A nickel on the dollar is not how you pays things off.   $4 a day is how you change behavior.  I don’t really have a problem with that (my work life doesn’t allow for mass transit as I make multiple stops a day) I just have a problem with how it is packaged.  

    • Seriously? August 28, 2019 (10:13 am)

      This guy! Scott, you are on point here. 

Sorry, comment time is over.