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$1 toll recommended for new Seattle tunnel

The recommendation goes to the Washington state Transportation Commission and the Legislature, who will make a final decision. But that's not any time soon. A decision is not expected until sometime next year.

The Associated Press

2/24/2014

SEATTLE — When the currently stalled Highway 99 tunnel project in Seattle is completed, drivers could face an all-day $1 toll, with an increase to $1.25 during peak hours.

That's the recommendation released Wednesday from an advisory committee studying the various tolling scenarios for the Seattle tunnel. The recommendation goes to the Washington state Transportation Commission and the Legislature, who will make a final decision. But that's not any time soon. A decision is not expected until sometime next year.

The advisory committee tried to find the "sweet spot" for the toll that would keep 80 percent of drivers on the highway in peak times without diverting to downtown streets, committee co-chair Maud Daudon told King 5.

Under the suggested scenario, the tunnel would be tolled every day of the week, including holidays and weekends. The committee also asserts it would generate $1 billion over 30 years. The tunnel plan called for $200 million of its $1.1 billion construction price to come from tolling. The committee said its recommended plan would cover that.

"Charging a toll 24 hours a day helps keep toll rates at a level that minimizes diversion while generating sufficient revenue," the committee study said.

The committee said it remains anxious about traffic spilling onto city streets. Using models, the committee said its plan would result in as much as 38 percent of drivers using city streets during daytime off-peak hours. More studying is needed to attempt to bring down that forecast under 30 percent, the committee said.

Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien, who has been critical of the tunnel project in the past, also worries about the possible effect of drivers diverting to surface streets to avoid paying the toll.

"Traffic diversion is a concern," he said.

The committee studied eight scenarios, with tolling options ranging below 50 cents to higher than $3. Other scenarios included high tolls that decreased during off-peak hours and no tolls on weekends and holidays.

High toll rates resulted in diversion into city streets at levels that would be too high, while low toll rates did not generate enough money, the committee said.

Information from: KING-TV, http://www.king5.com/


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