Study: Tolls would divert Seattle tunnel traffic

SEATTLE — A new study says thousands of cars would avoid the Highway 99 toll tunnel planned to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct and funnel onto surface streets if toll rates are set high enough to support the tunnel’s budget.

The Seattle Times reported that an extra 9,100 cars could spill onto surface streets during the afternoon commute in 2017 if tolls were $3.50 southbound and $2.50 northbound. That’s about 42 percent of traffic that would use an untolled tunnel.

The state is depending on $200 million in revenue to help pay for the $3.2 billion replacement for the aging, earthquake-vulnerable viaduct.

Project administrator Linea Laird said this week that no other money is currently available to the state Department of Transportation.

The latest, preliminary predictions about diverted traffic were prepared for a government advisory committee that will help set toll rates. Actual toll proposals aren’t due until year end.

The finished, four-lane tunnel is expected to open at the end of 2015.

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