Prepare for backups when tolls begin in Seattle’s SR 99 tunnel
We only have two weeks left before tolling starts on the 99 tunnel in Seattle, and when they do, we can expect significant backups to ensue.
The tolls go live on Saturday, Nov. 9, and make no mistake, this is going to be a huge change for our commute. We still don’t know exactly where diverting traffic will go. Will drivers jump to I-5? Will they go to surface street? Will they go to either end and bail in Pioneer Square and South Lake Union?
One thing I can guarantee is that our traffic will be bad as people figure this out. The Washington Department of Transportation is preparing for up to 34 percent diversion from the tunnel.
Tolling director Ed Barry told Seattle City Council that up to 1,700 vehicles an hour during the peak commutes could divert. About 5,000 vehicles an hour use the tunnel during those times. They have to go somewhere, so you should have your backup plan ready to roll.
That said, there are a few things that I want to go over, primarily about the tolling system itself. You need to have a Good To Go pass to save a $2 surcharge on every trip. There is a whole group of drivers who have never had a tolling sticker before, and there is some confusion.
I was talking to our afternoon traffic reporter Tracy Taylor yesterday, and she told about one driver who said he received his sticker, set it up online, but was confused that there was no money in his account. That’s because the stickers don’t come pre-paid — you need to put at least $30 into the account for it to go active.
The toll prices will go as follows:
- 6 – 7 a.m. – $1.25
- 7 – 9 a.m. – $1.50
- 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. – $1.25
- 3 – 6 p.m. – $2.25
- 6 – 11 p.m. – $1.25
- 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. – $1
If you are deciding what pass is best for you, be sure to think about your drive. Do you ever use 405? Do you ever use 167? If the answer to either one of those questions is yes, maybe a Flex Pass works best for you. It will work in the tunnel, and it will work on the other corridors. The Flex Pass will also cost you a little more money.
You have been warned. The tolls are coming. The diversion is coming. You have two weeks to get ready.
For more on tolling and how it will effect the morning commute, tune into KIRO Radio’s upcoming Traffic Townhall on Thursday, Nov. 7, hosted by our resident traffic expert, Tracy Taylor.