The Highway 99 Tunnel through downtown Seattle, which has been free since it opened in February, will start tolling drivers Saturday morning beginning at 5 a.m.
Weekday toll prices for drivers with a Good to Go! pass will vary throughout the day, ranging from $1.00 in the early morning, to an afternoon peak of $2.25. Weekend tolls will have a flat rate of $1.00. Drivers without a Good to Go! pass will have an additional $2.00 charge added to all tolls and will be billed by mail. The tolls will be collected for motorists travelling in both directions, and will be higher for vehicles with more than two axles.
Transportation officials are anticipating that many drivers will use side streets instead of the tunnel to avoid the tolls, increasing downtown traffic.
“Our streets, as folks know, are at capacity,” said Heather Marx of the Seattle Department of Transportation. “In my estimation, it’s not worth your time to try to make your way through downtown on surface streets, and we just really want to encourage folks to use the tunnel.”
Drivers and bus riders alike are expected to be affected by traffic but transportation officials say congestion should ease up over time.
“The Metro point of view is for folks to be prepared for some delays, even on buses,” said Travis Shofner, a King County Metro public information officer. “We think that as people adjust their habits things will hopefully even out. But in the immediate change of that tolling, folks are going to have to get used to it and figure out what works best for them.”
The State had originally planned to start tolling over the summer, but decided to push it back until demolition of the waterfront portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was done. Another reason for the delay in tolling was a switch over the summer in the contractor responsible for managing the tolling operation system.
State transportation officials said they briefly pivoted towards a new contractor, ETAN, but became unsure that the tolling system would be launched on time after repeated delays. To avoid further pushing the tolling start date back, they went back to the existing contractor, in part because the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) lost $1 million for every month that the tunnel was free.
Next year, the job will be handed back over to ETAN. The company will also manage tolling for Highway 167 toll lanes, I-405 express toll lanes, the Highway 520 bridge and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Good to Go! passes can be purchased at MyGoodToGo.com or at a WSDOT walk-in Customer Service Center. Participating retail stores, including some Fred Meyer and QFC locations, will also offer the passes.