Washington appears to be leaning less and less on tolls for the new Highway 99 tunnel.
Back in 2009, the Washington state legislature required that the Alaskan Way Viaduct pull in $400 million of the $3.1 billion price tag from tolls. Since then, the ceiling has been lowered to $200 million, and on Sept. 17 House Transportation Committee Chairperson Judy Clibborn suggested a lesser amount.
“I have been out telling everyone to count less on money that comes from tolling, and think of tolling as a lower amount, that covers operations and maintenance,” she said.
The higher the toll, the higher the diversion, and that would be a problem in Seattle where congestion is already high. Current research has revealed a $1 off-peak to $3.25 peak toll in each direction would have about one-third of the daily traffic choosing alternate routes. Dropping the range to .75 cents and $2.50 would still create a 22 to 30% diversion rate.
The tunnel already is causing a serious pinch in the DOT budget. If tolls do become less of a financial factor, more funding will have to be pulled from the state’s bridge fund. The Port of Seattle has pledged $300 million to the project, but has yet to deliver on its promise.