State Route 99 | KUOW News and Information

State Route 99

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is shown on Friday, March 9, 2018, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with reporter Carolyn Adolph about the risks faced by the state of Washington as it considers tolling the Highway 99 Tunnel. 


A view of the sky over Bertha the tunnel borer, whose efforts brought the SR-99 tunnel to life.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC BY 2.0)/flic.kr/p/yNcg1q

Let's say you owe me $20.

You decide that to pay me back, you'll set up a lemonade stand. There's about $50 in overhead: lemons, sugar. And don't forget wages for the younger siblings you'll be pressing into service to man the booth.

In the meantime, I decide to charge you $13 in interest. And suddenly, you find yourself needing to raise $100 to pay me that original $20.

Construction continues on the SR-99 tunnel on Thursday, November 2, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

You know the phrase: "You have to spend money to make money." That's the case for tolling the state Route 99 tunnel in Seattle.

Washington state says it will spend about $500 million to run a tolling system on the tunnel in order to fulfill its obligations.

Cameras on the Highway 520 bridge take pictures of license plates as vehicles pass to assess tolls.
Flickr Photo/Wonderlane (CC-BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/9ftjw3

Drivers will have a free ride on the state Route 99 tunnel in Seattle when it first opens this fall. After a few months, however, expect to pay a toll of $1.00-$2.50 for each trip.

The Washington State Transportation Commission has proposed multiple tolling options and will present them in public meetings this spring. 


An Emergency Evacuation Route sign is shown on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, inside the SR 99 tunnel in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Soon, state Route 99 — and the rest of us —will have a new asset: a completed Alaskan Way tunnel.

The $3.2 billion tunnel provides an earthquake-safe route under our downtown. However, the state highway department says it’s taken the highway off its list of Seismic Lifeline routes


Safety representative for the Seattle Tunnel Partners, Marisa Roddick, wears stickers on her helmet for each year that she has worked on the tunnel project, from 2013 to 2018, on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Seattle.
KUOW photo/Megan Farmer

When Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct was built in the 1950s, we didn't know much about earthquakes. California's Loma Prieta quake in 1989 opened our eyes when their viaduct collapsed and crushed 41 people. 

And when the Nisqually quake in 2001 damaged our own viaduct, it sealed the deal for officials: The viaduct had to go.

Bill Steele demonstrates of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network uses a shake table to show how earthquake forces gain power as they move away from the ground. But under the ground, it's a different story.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Seattle region has been growing so fast, there are now 400,000 more people here than in 2009, when we agreed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel. 

Construction continues on the SR-99 tunnel on Thursday, November 2, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The downtown Seattle tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way viaduct is edging closer to completion.

The upper level of the double-decker highway is about 90 percent complete, according to project manager Chris Dixon.

WSDOT

Remember Bertha, and how lots of people thought it would never finish digging the two-mile tunnel beneath Seattle's waterfront?

Well, the machine reached daylight around midday on Tuesday. After nearly four years of digging, the machine is about to reach the finish line on Highway 99 near the Space Needle.

On the eve of a two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the tunneling project under Seattle’s waterfront will ultimately succeed.

The viaduct is closing to allow the tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha to dig underneath the double-decker structure. Under the original timeline the tunnel was supposed to be open by now and the viaduct long ago torn down.

Chris Dixon of Seattle Tunnel Partners speaks about Bertha's status on Dec. 23, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bertha the drill is ready to start work again. But first it’ll take a little rest over the holidays.

Four workers were injured in an accident at the north end of the 99 tunnel project near Seattle Center on Thursday afternoon.

Three of those workers walked out on their own; firefighters had to walk in half a mile to free a fourth worker who had been trapped 25 feet down from where he fell. 

According to Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore, the men were working on a wall project when it broke beneath them, sending them hurtling 25 feet to the ground below. The men were 23, 29, 31 and 36.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bertha needs a face lift.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials told the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon that the face of the state Route 99 tunnel machine has to come off in order to repair its damaged machinery.

WSDOT Photo

An 8-inch-wide steel pipe.

That’s what is likely blocking Bertha, the boring machine creating a tunnel through downtown Seattle to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Progress at last on the tunnel being built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The most plausible theory about what stopped Bertha, the tunneling machine digging its way through downtown until last Saturday, is also the most boring.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT

A new tolling proposal would ask drivers to pay as little as $1.00 for taking the Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle. During morning and evening commutes, rates would jump to $1.25. A state advisory committee is hoping the proposal will strike a balance between tolling revenues and potential traffic diversion.

Two years ago, when the tunnel plan was approved by voters, the proposed tolling rates were as high as $3.00 during peak hours. Under that plan, traffic planners were concerned that high tolling rates would divert too many cars onto downtown streets. Maud Daudon is co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Tolling and Traffic Management. She's also president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. She talked with Ross Reynolds.