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When does the viaduct close? How much is the tunnel toll? Your guide to Seattle’s Highway 99 project

The view from the viaduct at sunset, July 21, 2018. 207100

Visitors Lab has acquired questions from almost 600 readers concerning the tunnel venture. They vary from the price of tolls and the way a lot visitors will use the tunnel to who determined to construct it, anyway?

Seattle’s waterfront Alaskan Approach Viaduct, in service since 1953, might be changed this winter by a four-lane Freeway 99 tunnel between Sodo and South Lake Union.

Should you’re new round right here, maybe you don’t know concerning the 18 years of citizen boards, design research, arguments, advisory poll measures, mechanical breakdowns and digging by the huge tunnel-boring machine Bertha, to lastly arrive at a accomplished tunnel.

The view from the viaduct at sunset, July 21, 2018. 207100

Extra on the Freeway 99 tunnel

Get the newest information and updates at st.information/tunnel »

Or perhaps you simply marvel how individuals will journey when the tunnel makes some journeys extra direct, and different journeys extra circuitous.

Visitors Lab is a Seattle Occasions venture that digs into the area’s thorny transportation points, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers discover one of the best methods to get round. It’s funded with the assistance of group sponsors Alaska Airways, CenturyLink, Kemper Improvement Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance coverage Firm, Sabey Corp., Seattle Youngsters’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Occasions editors and reporters function independently of our funders and keep editorial management over Visitors Lab content material.

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Visitors Lab has acquired questions from almost 600 readers concerning the tunnel undertaking. They vary from the price of tolls and the way a lot visitors will use the tunnel to who determined to construct it, anyway?

Right here is our first installment of solutions, beginning with the fundamentals. We’ll be answering extra questions within the weeks forward.

You possibly can ship us your questions by going to st.information/tunnel and clicking on the hyperlink for questions concerning the undertaking.

When does the viaduct shut and the tunnel open for visitors?

The viaduct closes for good Jan. 11, 2019. The tunnel will open someday through the week of Feb. Three-9, stated Dave Sowers, deputy Freeway 99 administrator for the Washington State Division of Transportation (WSDOT). Meaning vacationers could have no viaduct and no tunnel for 3 weeks to cross downtown.

Why shut the viaduct three weeks earlier than the tunnel opens?

Contractors want time to pave new ramp connections from Aurora Avenue to the north tunnel portal, and from Sodo Freeway 99 to the south portal. This work crosses freeway lanes, forcing a full closure, together with visitors snarls getting into central Seattle.

A viaduct-closure handout is shown during a media tour of the Highway 99 tunnel  Thursday. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)A viaduct-closure handout is shown during a media tour of the Highway 99 tunnel  Thursday. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

A viaduct-closure handout is proven throughout a media tour of the Freeway 99 tunnel Thursday. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Occasions)

When will the viaduct be torn down?

Demolition ought to start in January or February, and final till June or past.

How will they demolish the viaduct?

The $40 million activity, awarded to Kiewit Infrastructure West, might require 4 months or longer — in comparison with 9 days in October 2011 to degree a mile of viaduct in Sodo.

That is primarily due to tight areas, together with sidewalks and buildings inside 10 ft of the viaduct. Demolition groups will hold mesh curtains to defend home windows from flying particles, when the munching claws get right down to enterprise. A lot of the 397 foundations have to be severed 5 ft underground. Truck routes to haul particles are slender and should battle with visitors.

Early plans name for as many as 5 work groups to hurry up the job, in addition to concrete-breaking till 10 p.m. Seneca Road and Western Avenue ramps will stay awhile so gear operators can drive onto the elevated decks. Street decks close to Pike Place Market could be eliminated first so the town can begin constructing its Overlook Stroll from the market right down to the Seattle Aquarium.

What’s the price of this undertaking to taxpayers?

The state price range for the tunnel, interchanges, viaduct demolition and rebuilt waterfront Alaskan Method totals $Three.Three billion, coated principally by $2 billion in state fuel taxes. The federal authorities contributed $787 million and the Port of Seattle $268 million. Tolls are supposed to offer $200 million plus upkeep bills.

Nevertheless, contractors have sued the state and insurance coverage corporations for as much as $600 million extra, to cowl greater than two years of delay and repairs when tunnel-boring machine Bertha broke down in December 2013. Months or years of lawsuits stay, earlier than we all know what share of value overruns is paid by Washington state drivers.

The Freeway 99 tunnel and Freeway 520 bridge alternative depend on borrowing so drivers can be paying off the money owed till the early 2040s.

The northbound onramp is “buried” under blocks of foam. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)The northbound onramp is “buried” under blocks of foam. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

The northbound onramp is “buried” beneath blocks of froth. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Occasions)

Who have been the important thing individuals concerned in choosing the tunnel?

By the point the state selected a tunnel to switch the viaduct, it had already spent seven years and $325 million for publicity, engineering research, environmental studies and administration to guage a purported 75 elevated, floor, shallow-tunnel and small-tube choices, then eight finalists.

Gov. Christine Gregoire ended the method by selecting a single-bore tunnel following stakeholder conferences and closed-door talks in late 2008. Another influencers have been:

  • WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond: signed the $1.44 billion tunneling contract in 2011 with Dragados USA and Tutor-Perini corporations, underneath the identify Seattle Tunnel Companions.
  • Harvey Parker and John Reilly: tunnel-industry evangelists and undertaking leaders, who satisfied Washington state officers a world document 57-foot, Three-inch tube was possible.
  • Bruce Agnew: director of the Cascadia Middle assume tank, who organized a discussion board and conversations amongst native leaders and tunnel-industry executives.
  • Ed Murray: Seattle Democrat and prime sponsor of the state deep-tunnel laws, whereas chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
  • Ron Paananen: WSDOT undertaking administrator when the tunnel was chosen. Presently a private-sector marketing consultant on Freeway 520.
  • Judy Clibborn: state Home Transportation Committee chairwoman from Mercer Island, who persistently supported tunnel funding, even when prices rose.
  • Tayloe Washburn: lawyer and Seattle Chamber of Commerce consultant who led the stakeholder group that wound up endorsing a tunnel.
  • Jan Drago: Seattle Metropolis Council member who claimed credit score for holding a deep-tunnel choice in play, whereas public advisory ballots rejected a brand new viaduct and a shallow tunnel. Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Tom Rasmussen prominently endorsed and defended the tunnel plan amid citizen opposition.
  • Bob Donegan: president of Ivar’s eating places, who argued that shallow-tunnel and viaduct choices would damage waterfront commerce by closing segments of Freeway 99 and trenching Alaskan Method for years.

How extensive is the tunnel roadway?

There are two 11-foot-wide southbound lanes on the higher deck and two 11-foot northbound lanes on the decrease deck.

An Eight-foot shoulder is on the waterfront aspect of each decks — proper for southbound, left for northbound. Shoulders are positioned that approach as a result of the emergency-evacuation doorways and passageway have been constructed alongside the waterfront aspect of the tunnel. On the inland aspect, the shoulder is 2 ft.

Overhead clearance is 15 ft and 9 inches under the traffic-message indicators.

What’s the velocity restrict?

The posted restrict is 45 mph, to be decreased by digital lane indicators when visitors is heavy. Seattle police are liable for enforcement.

Are there downtown exits?

No. The viaduct’s middowntown ramps at Seneca Road and Columbia Road won’t get replaced. In Belltown, the northbound exit at Western Avenue and southbound entrance at Elliott Avenue additionally gained’t get replaced.

Nevertheless drivers can exit the tunnel at South Lake Union and head south throughout Denny Approach towards downtown. Or take the Sodo interchange and take First Avenue South or Alaskan Means South north to downtown. Each interchanges embrace the phrase “Downtown” on their inexperienced exit indicators.

How a lot is the toll?

Tunnel journeys can be free till someday mid-2019.

Then charges will range by time-of-day, from $1 every path in in a single day hours to $1.50 for the morning commute and $2.25 at afternoon peak. They’re set low cost, so drivers are much less more likely to divert onto clogged metropolis streets and Interstate 5. Personal transit and registered vanpools are free, however carpools can pay the toll.

Overhead scanners cost the toll as automobiles journey full velocity, as on the Freeway 520 bridge.

Motorists want a windshield-mounted Good to Go move to keep away from a $2 surcharge per journey, billed by mail. Order passes at GoodtoGo.org; name 866-936-8246 (7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays); or go to 4554 ninth Avenue N.E., Seattle (College District), or 13107 N.E. 20th St., Suites Three and four, Bellevue (Eight a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays).

How a lot visitors will use the tunnel?

A brand new state forecast says the tunnel would serve 97,400 automobiles per day if it have been toll-free, which exceeds the 91,000 that presently cross the viaduct’s busiest level above Yesler Means.

WSDOT says demand can be strong as a result of individuals can drive the tunnel and backtrack from its endpoints towards downtown. For others, the tunnel presents a straight shot previous downtown with much less weaving or congestion than the viaduct, so it might create new journeys.

However WSDOT additionally estimates 44,000 drivers would divert as soon as tolls are charged — although they’re solely $1 to $2.25. Ed Barry, tolling director, stated diversion assumptions have been highballed out of fiscal warning. WSDOT most popular to skew tunnel utilization low, to be snug about toll revenues assembly the capital and upkeep necessities.

What about individuals who don’t need to drive within the tunnel?

A scarcity of downtown exits, claustrophobia, or tolls in mid-2019 may prod some drivers to keep away from the brand new tunnel.

Their different choices embrace driving the newly repaved four-lane Alaskan Approach on the waterfront, although viaduct demolition and street development will typically crimp some segments to 2 lanes.

First and Fourth avenues stay out there however might be extra crowded than traditional, no less than till waterfront bus lanes and elevated Sound Transit light-rail capability arrive in 2021. Interstate 5 is predicted to soak up some visitors that diverts from Freeway 99.

The brand new Sodo interchange gained’t be prepared for West Seattle and Burien drivers northbound into downtown till mid-February, which worsens the short-term ache. It’s unclear whether or not drivers to Interbay, Magnolia and Ballard will lose extra time driving on floor streets previous downtown, or driving the tunnel earlier than turning west at Mercer Road, or floor roads throughout Fremont or Phinney Ridge.