SR 99 tunnel ‘always going to be best route’ through Seattle when tolls begin

Nov 7, 2019, 1:56 PM | Updated: 2:43 pm

Tolls in Seattle’s SR 99 tunnel begins on Saturday, Nov. 9, and the effects will be felt across Seattle for commuters. As for how drivers can best handle those effects, representatives from SDOT, WSDOT, King County Metro, and Sound Transit stopped in at KIRO Radio’s Traffic Townhall with advice.

Traffic Townhall: I-976 will make Seattle Squeeze ‘much worse’

Tolling is likely to send many tunnel drivers onto Seattle’s downtown surface streets to avoid paying. That being so, paying the toll might be preferable.

“If you’re traveling through downtown Seattle, the tunnel is always going to be your best route,” said SDOT’s Heather Marx. “Our streets are at capacity — it’s not worth your time trying to make your way through downtown on surface streets.”

Beyond that, the hope is driver behaviors mirror what we saw back when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed for good, where traffic levels weren’t nearly as problematic as originally projected.

“When the viaduct came down, we found that so many people just took our advice and changed up their commute,” Marx noted. “We just hope that everyone does that exact same thing for the purposes of tolling.”

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

SDOT also has pre-developed signal timing patterns prepared for traffic lights that it’s ready to deploy “at a moment’s notice” should additional congestion take hold downtown, as well as five extra emergency response teams for clearing collisions.

Toll prices are as follows, beginning Saturday, Nov. 9:

Weekends: $1


  • 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 which pass is best for you, be sure to think about your drive. Do you ever use I-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. If not, then you can purchase a Good to Go pass to save you $2 for every trip through the tunnel.

Tracy Taylor

montlake bridge...

MyNorthwest Staff

Montlake Bridge will close for 26 days starting Aug. 9

Tracy Taylor details the 26-day shutdown of the Montlake Bridge and what it will mean for commuters to the University of Washington and the Montlake area.

3 years ago

Revive I-5, construction...

MyNorthwest Staff

Plan ahead for congested roads, busy long holiday weekend

The long holiday weekend is here and more people are expected to hit the roads ahead of the Fourth of July. Know when to avoid the major routes.

3 years ago


MyNorthwest Staff

Expect road closures through downtown Seattle, Fife this weekend

There are multiple projects that will shut down parts of Southbound I-5 in Seattle and Fife this weekend.

3 years ago

traffic, traffic garden...

KIRO Newsradio staff

Streetwise: Thurston County school teaches students about road safety

KIRO Traffic's Tracy Taylor talks to a Thurston County School that is teaching kids about road safety and traffic.

3 years ago

Follow @

MyNorthwest Staff

Tracy’s tips for Memorial Day weekend, summer travel on the roads

Tracy has tips on best road trip destinations, gas prices, and road projects to look out for this summer in Western Washington.

3 years ago

distracted driving...

MyNorthwest Staff

Beware of the dangers of distracted driving

KIRO Radio's Tracy Taylor wants you to be aware of the dangers during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

3 years ago

SR 99 tunnel ‘always going to be best route’ through Seattle when tolls begin