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Seattle council member wants to toll drivers avoiding tolls

The tunnel that Bertha made under Seattle. (WSDOT)

A Seattle council member thinks he may have a solution to drivers avoiding tolls — another toll.

“To maintain the bus service, what we need to do is make sure that there aren’t more cars on our streets downtown,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien told KIRO 7.

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As the council considers its next budget — expected to pass before the end of the year — O’Brien wants the city to look ahead a couple of years to when the Highway 99 tunnel opens under downtown Seattle. Drivers will have to pay a toll to bypass downtown surface streets.

Some studies suggest that drivers will likely avoid the tunnel toll and move to surrounding streets, according to KIRO 7. In which case, O’Brien wants to establish another fee to keep people from doing so.

“Folks that are on 99 that are going to try divert to get out of the tunnel, because that they don’t want to pay that toll, do we have some sort of toll that says, ‘You are going to pay a toll one way or the other’? So if you are going to use the tunnel, just use it,” O’Brien said.

London has a similar system — known as congestion pricing — to cut down on snarled traffic in its central district. Traffic volumes decreased by 10 percent, KIRO 7 reports.

O’Brien is currently pushing for $200,000 in the next budget so the city can study the potential toll before the tunnel opens in early 2019.

Bertha finished boring in April. Crews continue to work inside the tunnel, constructing machinery and two-levels to handle northbound and southbound traffic.

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