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SR 99 Tunnel
A view in early May of the southbound deck of the SR 99 tunnel. (Flickr Photo / WSDOT)

Traffic isn’t flowing through the new SR 99 tunnel beneath Seattle yet, but options for how much money flows out of it via tolls are already being considered in Washington state’s capital.

The Washington State Transportation Commission announced Tuesday that it is implementing the public input and review process on three toll-rate options that are under consideration. According to a post on the WSTC website, the commission has spent more than a year studying and assessing all aspects of tolling on the new roadway, which is still being worked on between the Seattle Center and the sports stadiums.

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The tunnel is slated to open to traffic as early as this fall. The state Legislature determined in 2012 that tolling would be needed to raise $200 million of the $3.3 billion it cost for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program and cover ongoing operation and maintenance costs.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said in an email to Good to Go customers that the 2-mile tunnel, which will carry two lanes of traffic north and south, will initially be free when it opens and that it has not been determined when tolling will start.

A WSDOT website has more information on the tunnel and tolling. In the same manner as the new SR 520 bridge and all other toll roads in Washington, tolls will be collected electronically. Drivers traveling in either direction will be charged as they exit the tunnel and will not need to slow down or stop at a toll booth. Overhead signs on SR 99 will alert drivers that they are approaching a tolled tunnel, the website says.

As for how much it’s all going to cost drivers — after decades of driving above ground on the Alaskan Way Viaduct for free — that’s what the three options will determine. Here are the details on those:

Option A:

  • Toll rates range from $1.50 – $2.25 during peak travel times, $1.25 midday and $1 overnight.
  • 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, $1 midday and $1 overnight.
  • 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, $1.25 midday and $1 overnight.
  • 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 5 percent each, taking place in July of 2024, 2029, and 2034, for all days of the week.

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.

Check this website for dates of public input meetings in Seattle in early June. Or, to comment via email, use trans@wstc.w.gov, or use an online form found here.

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