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October 27, 2022  

This Seattle Highway Is Facing a $29 Million Financial Crisis

October 27, 2022

During the winter of 2019, a tunnel for State Route 99 (SR 99) opened, running beneath downtown Seattle, Washington. It was a long-anticipated project with a price tag of $3.3 billion—with an accompanying tolling program to cover $20 million in construction debt and operating costs.

The tunnel was toll-free for the first nine months after opening, so that drivers would be enticed to change their routes. However, only a couple of months after the tolling began, so did the COVID-19 pandemic. This drastically changed traffic patterns, and even now in fall 2022, traffic patterns have not picked up to 2019 levels.

Consequently, the tunnel is now facing what some call a "financial crisis," even after imposing an urgent 15% toll rate increase to make up for 2020 losses. In all, SR 99 is estimated to have a $29 million deficit right now—which podcast host Abby Kinney and Strong Towns Editor-in-Chief Daniel Herriges explore on this week's episode of Upzoned.