Motorists using the State Route 99 Tunnel will continue doing so for free this summer. WSDOT has pushed its timeline to begin tolling the new tunnel to sometime this fall.

The Washington State Transportation Commission adopted tolling rates back in October that were originally expected to take effect this summer, but a new system for billing and storing customer account data isn’t ready yet.

“Tolling has hired a new company to help with all the transactions,” said WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn, “and that involves a really, really big IT conversion; really big, because there are more than a million users of the Good To Go! system.”

The Good To Go! sticker pass is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield and recorded by overhead scanners on WSDOT toll roads. If a vehicle passes under a scanner, and does not have a Good To Go! pass, the driver will pay a higher toll due to the added cost of issuing a bill by mail.

Had the Bertha tunnel-boring machine used for the SR-99 Tunnel not broken down, pushing the opening back, tolling would have occurred through the existing system, Newborn said, but now WSDOT is waiting for the new system to get up and running.

“It became clear recently that the vendor was not ready,” said Emily Glad, WSDOT toll division communications manager.

WSDOT also needs time to check tolling equipment in the tunnel.

Another big factor in delaying tolls is the ongoing demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“We did not want to start tolling until viaduct demolition was done,” Newborn said.

WSDOT anticipates finishing removal of the viaduct, which opened in 1953 and closed in early January 2019, by the end of summer. Alaskan Way is being reduced to one lane in each direction, between South King and Dearborn streets, on June 14, to begin demolishing the remaining southern section.

Tolling is required to cover $200 million in construction costs for the SR-99 Tunnel, as well as the $170 million in operations and maintenance funding that will be needed over the next several decades, Glad said.

The SR-99 Tunnel opened to motorists in early February.

“We’re still in what we consider the growing period,” Newborn said, “and I would say roughly anywhere between 75,000 to 80,000 vehicles per day use the tunnel, and that number continues to change.”

That doesn’t count the number of cars getting off SR-99 at Aurora Avenue North or South Dearborn Street, which is more than 25,000 motorists daily, Newborn said.

Glad said conservative projections are that tunnel usage will drop to 41,000 daily vehicles once tolling starts, and then level out to around 53,000 over the next several years.

“On 520, we saw the ramp-up was much faster than our conservative projections,” Glad said, referring to the State Route 520 Bridge over Lake Washington.

While tolling is delayed to fall, Glad said WSDOT anticipates tolling rates will not be readjusted from where they were set last year.

Weekday tolls will be $1.50 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. (peak commute) and $2.25 from 3-6 p.m. (evening peak). The toll will be $1.25 during non-peak hours between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., and $1 for weekend and overnight (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) tolls. Anyone without a Good To Go! pass will pay an extra $2.

WSDOT has a Good To Go! incentive pass program going on now, where people can sign up for a free sticker pass at 99tunnel.com. New accounts require an initial prepaid balance of $30, but a new Pay As You Go option will become available later this summer.