Seattle’s SR 99 Tunnel Seeking State Bailout

The Wash­ing­ton Trans­porta­tion plans to ask the state for funds to make up the grow­ing gap of the SR 99 tun­nel in Seat­tle, reports Ryan in The Urban­ist.

Tolls on the bore tun­nel under­neath down­town Seat­tle were orig­i­nal­ly set to con­tribute $200 mil­lion toward the cost of the $1.35 bil­lion con­struc­tion cost plus upkeep, but ear­li­er this year the state trea­sur­er’s office came before the com­mis­sion and warned of a ‘per­ma­nent reduc­tion in rev­enues’ fol­low­ing the onset of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic that like­ly could not be made up for in toll rate increas­es, which increase traf­fic diver­sion to toll-free sur­face streets.

Traf­fic in the tun­nel is expect­ed to drop next year with the open­ing of a four-lane over­pass near Pike Place , Pack­er notes. “Even with the autumn , toll rev­enue tra­jec­to­ry is well below the lev­el required to make the tun­nel’s finan­cial sus­tain­able.” 

Mean­while, efforts to put the city on the hook for cost over­runs have failed in the state leg­is­la­ture. Com­ment­ing on the tun­nel’s long his­to­ry of being passed around by var­i­ous author­i­ties, Pack­er con­cludes, “Just a few years after the tun­nel’s open­ing, it looks like it has become a White Ele­phant that no one wants to keep in their stock­ing.”

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