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Tolls for SR-99 tunnel a balancing act

An artist rendering of the SR-99 tunnel shows cars traveling under Seattle near the waterfront. If tolls are set too high on the new tunnel, traffic will likely divert into downtown. (WSDOT Photo/File)

An advisory committee tasked with helping to set tolls on the Highway 99 tunnel without sending downtown Seattle into gridlock will meet Wednesday to weigh their options.

If tolls are set too high on the SR-99 tunnel, traffic will divert into downtown.

If tolls are set too low, the state will not generate the $200 million needed to help pay for the project.

“I need revenue, there’s no question. The project needs revenue funds,” said Linea Laird, administrator of The Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “How we get the revenue funds and then how you balance diversion is going to be the challenge ahead.”

The State Route 99 Tunnel Project’s Advisory Committee on Tolling and Traffic Management was scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to review toll modeling results and learn how toll revenue would be used.

“It is way too preliminary and early in the process to say, ‘this is the toll rate you will be paying,'” Laird said. “This is a difficult facility to toll and we will be challenged with that.”

House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, told the Seattle Times she favors keeping tolls low to avoid traffic diversion, even if it means changing revenue projections.

Laird said the advisory committee will continue to test scenarios in order to reach an acceptable balance.

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