Seattle’s new SR99 tunnel finally faces full traffic with 4 mile backup

Feb 6, 2019, 9:13 AM | Updated: 11:56 am
sr99 tunnel...
A two mile backup forms inside Seattle's new SR99 tunnel Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (WSDOT)

Full use of Seattle’s new SR99 tunnel under downtown was delayed this week after snow kept many drivers off the road. Wednesday proved to be the test as commuters returned, and the result — a four-mile backup.

WATCH: A test drive through Seattle’s new tunnel

“The northbound SR99 backup nearly reaches the West Seattle Bridge,” KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Chris Sullivan said. “Two miles above ground, and two miles below ground. The reason? Drivers are trying to exit at Republican in South Lake Union. The Dearborn off ramp is not open yet.”

“This is the first real commute with the 99 tunnel, I don’t count the last two days because of all the snow,” he said. “This appears to be people trying to use the one-and-only exit into downtown, which is at Republican. The northbound ramp to Dearborn, which will get you off at Pioneer Square, is not yet open. So I’m hoping this is an anomaly. It’s too early to make a judgment. Either way, our first real commute in the SR99 tunnel has been a suck fest. It’s not been great. You drivers are sucking the exhaust from the cars in front of you.”

As Sullivan noted, one exit in the northbound direction is not open yet — the ramp to Dearborn Street. That could be causing some strain on traffic. It is unknown if the exit can relieve congestion once opened. As for Wednesday, however, the backup extended the entire length of the tunnel, and beyond.

“It turns out that everybody going through the tunnel, they are trying to get off at Republican, go to Dexter, then you have to peel off and go back into downtown,” Sullivan said. “That was one of the main concerns. This tunnel is a bypass with no exits, and some were worried that Republican ramp would not be able to handle the pressure. And today, it doesn’t look like it can.”

When the tunnel opened on Monday, traffic ran smoothly. Sullivan took a couple drives through the tunnel and had plenty of positive things to say. Of course, that was when snow prevented commuters from using the passage.

Local News

early primary, kim wyman...
Nick Bowman

Report: Washington Sec. of State Wyman could be leaving role for new job with Biden administration

Sources tell CNN that Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman could be leaving her role for a new job with the Department of Homeland Security.
21 hours ago
vaccine, booster doses...
MyNorthwest Staff

Booster doses of COVID vaccines available in Washington for eligible individuals

Booster doses of all three COVID-19 vaccine types are now available for certain individuals in Washington, and can be safely mixed and matched.
21 hours ago
salmon hatchery...
Dalton Day

Potential ‘irreparable damage’ to Puget Sound orcas over alleged illegal salmon hatchery expansion

Conservationists allege that Fish and Wildlife has expanded salmon hatcheries without lawful compliance under SEPA, thereby damaging native salmon and orca whales.
21 hours ago
seattle relief fund...
Kathryn Altena

Mayor launches Seattle Relief Fund to help families impacted by COVID

Seattle city leaders announced the launch of a new relief fund Monday to help struggling families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
21 hours ago
MyNorthwest Staff

State recovers $495,000 in stolen unemployment benefits with ‘innovative’ legal strategy

For the first time, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has used asset forfeiture to repossess $495,000 in fraudulent unemployment claims.
21 hours ago
Washington Daylight Saving Time...
Nick Bowman

Washington looks for ‘alternative’ paths to end years-long wait for permanent Daylight Saving Time

With the state setting their clocks back again on Nov. 7, Sen. Murray says her office is ramping up work to end the twice-yearly time changes.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Seattle’s new SR99 tunnel finally faces full traffic with 4 mile backup