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.

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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

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