SEATTLE – The free ride is over as tolls on the new SR 99 tunnel beneath Seattle are about to turn for the first time Saturday morning.
After years of construction and delays, the tolls will finally begin collecting revenue to repay $200 million in construction bonds and help pay for ongoing maintenance.
“We are good to go to start tolling tomorrow morning, we intend to turn on the system and go forward with it,” said WSDOT toll division director Ed Barry.
Tolls could range from $1 to $2.25 for those with a Good to Go pass. Also, drivers won’t know how much you’ll pay until you already pass through the tunnel.
For drivers who don’t have a pass, WSDOT says they will be charged an extra $2.
“We’ve given away all of our incentive passes, but there is still opportunities for drivers to get a pass,” said Barry.
Traffic agencies say staff will be monitoring traffic and spillage onto city streets after the toll goes live.
“We would consider 30-percent diversion, we’re prepared for more than that,” said SDOT director of downtown mobility Heather Marx. “We’ve designed some signal timing plans that are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice should we detect anything unusual.”
The city of Seattle says it has been coordinating construction projects to minimize impact as best it can.
Plus, because some drivers will likely avoid paying the toll, Interstate 5 could also see a spike in congestion.
“We could see some additional traffic on I-5, but it really depends on what people do,” said Bart Treece from WSDOT. “It’s key for people to identify their routes, to know before they go.”