CHOKEPOINTS

WSDOT outlines concerns as tolling for Seattle tunnel approaches

Oct 29, 2019, 6:03 AM
SR 99 tunnel tolls...
Tolls begin in the SR 99 tunnel on Nov. 9, 2019. (Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio)
(Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio)

We’re under two weeks away from the start of Seattle tunnel tolling. What has traffic managers and planners concerned as we inch toward tolling on November 9?

Prepare for backups when tolls begin in Seattle’s SR 99 tunnel

All we can do is guess where drivers will choose to go once tolling begins. Will they stay in the tunnel? Will they divert to avoid paying the toll? And that last question has about 50 other questions embedded it in.

Will people alter their schedules? Will they choose transit? Will they jump off 99 just before the tunnel? Will they bail from 99 earlier than that?

The one thing we can say for sure is that tolling will fundamentally change our traffic patterns. Jennifer Charlebois with the Washington Department of Transportation said about a third of drivers using the tunnel today could go somewhere else.

“We do expect there to be a drop in volumes,” she said. “Some of our predictions show around 35 percent or so.”

Heather Marx is Seattle’s director of downtown mobility, and she will be watching the surface streets carefully.

“We’re going to see more cars on Alaskan Way and on 1st Avenue,” she said. “More vehicles on the SR 99 exits and the alternative routes to SR 99.”

Seattle traffic engineers are ready to tweak signal timing and call out police to help direct traffic if necessary.

“We have pre-designed signal timing plans that we will be able to deploy at the press of a button, in order to address any difficulties that we see,” Marx said.

The police will be called out to help with blocking the box issues and bus lane violations to help keep traffic moving.

Charlebois said the state will be watching all exits to track where drivers are going.

“We’re going to be looking all over to find what changes we’re seeing, if we’re seeing changes in travel times and major changes in volumes,” she said.

So what, if anything, is keeping traffic managers awake at night?

WSDOT aims to ease transition for coming SR 99 tunnel tolls

For Chalebois, it’s the drivers.

“We want people to be ready,” she said. “We don’t want them to wait until the last day or the day after we start tolling to realize that they need to get a pass in their vehicle.”

Marx told me she’s confident in the planning.

“I sleep very well because I know all of us are prepared,” she noted

The state has given away 54,000 Good to Go sticker passes. That leaves about 6,000 left, but don’t wait. Tolling begins November 9. The first real commute will be two weeks from today on November 12, because Monday the 11th is a federal holiday for Veteran’s Day.

Chokepoints

wood plank, sr 169...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT archaeologist solves mystery of structure under Maple Valley Highway

The Maple Valley Highway finally reopened to all traffic Wednesday after an unexpected discovery pushed a weekend culvert project out three days.
5 days ago
WSDOT...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT accounts for 21% of state employees fired over vaccine mandate

Of 1,887 state employees that lost their jobs over the vaccine mandate, the largest group was from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
7 days ago
Maple Valley Highway...
Chris Sullivan

King County crews find mystery structure under Maple Valley Highway

You never know what you'll find when you dig in this corner of the country. Road crews found that out this weekend when fixing a culvert under Highway 169.
7 days ago
Climate Pledge Arena...
Chris Sullivan

Getting to Climate Pledge Arena 101: Prepare to ditch the car

The old ways of getting to the arena in downtown Seattle have intentionally been made more difficult so that public transit is a more palatable option.
12 days ago
I-5, bumps...
Chris Sullivan

Why there are bumps along I-5 through downtown Seattle (and when they’ll go away)

When KIRO Radio's Dave Ross asks you to update something for him, you do it. So what's with those annoying bumps on I-5 SB out of downtown Seattle?
14 days ago
I-90, grooves...
Chris Sullivan

Why are portions of I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass so ‘groovy’?

Another question from Chris Sullivan's recent driving: What's with the horizontal grooves on portions of I-90, east of Snoqualmie Pass?
19 days 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.
...
Comcast

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.
WSDOT outlines concerns as tolling for Seattle tunnel approaches