The Tunnel Takes Its Toll
WSDOT has been charged with finding a way to finance the deep-bore tunnel that is supposed to replace the Viaduct; yesterday they broke out five different tolling scenarios [pdf] to address the $400 million in construction costs unaccounted for so far. The overall project cost–at the 15-percent design stage–remains at $3.1 billion, though the tunnel portion has risen $60 million due to design changes.
(Oddly, the Seattle Times has two stories on the tunnel tolls, one which declares, “Construction estimates for the bored-tunnel portion of the highway remains at about $1.9 billion, same as the state predicted a year ago,” and one which says, “Construction cost estimates for the bored-tunnel portion have risen somewhat–to $1.96 billion, instead of $1.9 billion a year ago.”)
One plan–a low rate for peak hours on the tunnel only–raises only $100 million. Toll rates for rush hour in the four remaining plans run from $3.50 to $5 each way, and there are tunnel-only flavors, and options which also include tolls for segments of SR 99 north and south of the tunnel.
For a weekday work commuter, that would run between $140 and $200 per month in tolls (or from $1,700 to $2,400 per year). A commenter on West Seattle Blog opined the tolled tunnel would be, “Kind of like a secret passageway for the rich.” For back story on how the “optimal peak toll” has risen from $0.31 in a 2002 WSDOT study to today’s $4ish gouging, visit the Seattle Transit Blog.
Interestingly, WSDOT envisions the toll being assessed completely electronically, without toll booths. If you have a toll transponder in your car, the fee will be assessed that way. Otherwise, cameras will detect your license plate, and whomever the car is registered to will be billed.