$1 toll recommended for new Seattle tunnel

SEATTLE - Drivers should pay at least a $1 toll and $1.25 for peak times in rush hour when the stalled Seattle Highway 99 tunnel finally opens to traffic.

That recommendation came Wednesday from the Advisory Committee on Tolling, and will be forwarded to the state Transportation Commission.

Under the recommendation, the toll would be $1 - except during peak hours from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., when it would cost $1.25.

In the first 10 years, those tolls would bring in an estimated $1 billion and would help pay for the cost of the tunnel.

Advisory committee co-chair Mawd Daudon says it tried to find the "sweet spot" for the toll that would keep 80 percent of drivers on the highway in peak times without diverting to downtown streets.

"We're pretty pleased because for a while there in the early scenarios we had very high tolls insufficient revenue and a lot of diversion," Daudon said.

The committee expects about 3,500 drivers to avoid the tunnel and use side streets instead. It's the same scenario that played out when tolling began on the 520 bridge - and traffic increased on Interstate 90.