Share this story...
Seattle tunnel
Latest News

WSDOT says Seattle tunnel working well on one year anniversary

Drivers in Seattle's SR 99 tunnel. (MyNorthwest photo)

It’s been one year since the Seattle tunnel opened, giving drivers a bypass through the downtown core.

The tunnel appears to be the most consistent way to get through downtown Seattle without getting bogged down, especially during the peak commuting hours. That’s the feeling from the Washington Department of Transportation, now that the tunnel has been open one full year.

“The tunnel is functioning really well,” WSDOT’s Laura Newborn said. “A lot of people are using it. I think everybody is really pleased with it.”

Even with tolling starting in November, the tunnel continues to be a popular option.

Why Seattle tunnel toll prices are at the exit instead of entrance

“There’s more than a million trips every month in the tunnel,” Newborn said.

After initial concerns that commuters weren’t using the ‘Good To Go’ system enough, 84 percent of drivers in the tunnel are now using the system.

What about diversion? How many drivers are skipping the tunnel to avoid paying the tolls?

Diversion rates continue to be better than some of the worst-case scenarios the state and city were expecting.

“Morning peak usage of the tunnel is down about 20 percent, but afternoon peak it can be as low as 3 percent or 5 percent,” Newborn said. “Some days we’ve even seen it busier than before tolling.”

Overall, tunnel diversion is running at about 25 percent, which can be a little misleading. Diversion during off-peak hours is dragging down the curve.

Alaskan Way and other surface streets continue to see an increase in traffic, but at levels that match what experts were predicting.

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

What about diversion to I-5? Personally, I have noticed the commute starting a little earlier each morning on I-5 northbound, but Newborn said the freeway volumes are within traditional parameters.

“There’s all kinds of variations that happen normally on I-5, and I don’t think they see anything that’s attributable to the tunnel.”

Over the past year, here’s what we’ve learned: The tunnel gets you through Seattle fast, if you can afford the toll. Good to Go use is high. People continue to try different ways to get around Seattle, whether it’s getting out of the door earlier, off-shifting, using public transit, or telecommuting.

Let us know your experiences with the tunnel in the comments below.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints

Most Popular