The state may have to scrap its original plan for tolls to help pay for the tunnel.
Now, two years into the project, the state transportation commission says the tunnel will not generate in tolls the $200 million needed to help pay for itself. Commissioners fear drivers wll avoid the tunnel to avoid paying.
On Wednesday, the advisory committee for the Department of Transportation and the city of Seattle warned the commission about the issue, saying a high toll -- between $1 and $3.25 each way -- will discourage drivers from using the tunnel. Set it too low -- between 75 cents and $2. 25 each way --- and it won't generate enough money to pay for the tunnel. The key is finding the perfect balance.
"So, what we're doing is trying to model that and get as much detailed information," said Craig Stone, director of the WSDOT toll division. "And we are in the process. We are working with a citizens committee, and they are to lay out some recommendations this spring."
One of those recommendations is to conduct another study on completely redesigning tolling around Puget Sound. Ideas being considered include increasing tolls on other freeways and bridges to pay for the viaduct tunnel.
This spring, the transportation commission will consider increasing the toll on the Tacoma Narrows bridge by as much as 50-cents by either July or January. Commissioners are also considering increasing the toll on the 520 bridge and introducing tolls for the HOV express lanes along Interstate 405.
The commission has all spring to come up with a concrete plan.