Seattle Emerges From Tolled Tunnel Unscathed

Promises of congestion and thousands of cars spilling on to quiet residential streets proved unfounded after the first week with tolls on the Highway 91 tunnel in Seattle.

2 minute read

November 14, 2019, 1:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Seattle, Washington

Literally, cars exiting the Highway 99 tunnel in Seattle. | VDB Photos / Shutterstock

On Saturday, November 9, drivers had their first encounter with a toll plaza charging money for passage through the Highway 99 tunnel, the closely monitored replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Jose Cortright checks-in with the Highway 99 project, finding predictions of "carmageddon" alarmist and immaterial. Cortright cites Google Map traffic conditions on a typical Tuesday as well as Tuesday, November 12, a few days after the tunnel opened, and finds free flowing traffic through both the tunnels and on surrounding streets.

Overall, if you compare these two pictures, it’s pretty clear that today’s traffic situation in downtown Seattle is much better than a typical day.  Sure, Interstate 5, the freeway to the East of downtown Seattle is congested (as it is most late afternoon weekdays)  But downtown Seattle streets, particularly on the west side of downtown are “green.” or free flowing.  Overall, there’s a lot more “green” on Tuesday’s traffic charts than on a typical day. In other words:  no gridlock or Carmaggedon here.

This isn't the first time predictions of traffic doom followed the Highway 99 project—similar predictions proved untrue when the Alaska Way Viaduct close before the new tunnel opened. And, according to Cortright, the Seattle example is not the only very recent example of the same narrative. The new bus priority granted on 14th Street in Manhattan saw the same predictions of overflow traffic on quiet side streets with the same result: relatively calm and flowing traffic conditions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 in City Observatory

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Acela train at Wilmington station in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Passenger Rail Revival Is Here

For the first time in decades, multiple rail projects are moving forward that could have a transformative impact on train travel in the United States.

May 21, 2024 - Route Fifty

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

7 hours ago - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.