The cost will vary by time of day, with a proposed minimum of $1 overnights and weekends. Drivers can use the tunnel for free the first few months, after it opens to traffic this fall.

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Tolls inside Seattle’s new Highway 99 tunnel would peak at $2.25 during weekday afternoons, under a plan the state endorsed Tuesday.

The cost will vary by time of day, with a proposed minimum of $1 overnights and weekends. Drivers can use the tunnel for free the first few months, after it opens to traffic this fall.

Members of the volunteer Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) voted Tuesday to publish the proposal for one last round of citizen comment, before deciding final rates in October. Summer outreach for three similar plans drew 1,927 emails but only 15 comments at public hearings.

Highway 99 tunnel tolls

The state’s proposal, to be paid in each direction, from mid-2019 to mid-2022.

• 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. — $1

• 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. — $1.25

• 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. — $1.50

• 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — $1.25

• 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. — $2.25

• 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. — $1.25

• Weekends — $1

Source: Washington State Transportation Commission

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Chances are, that’s because WSTC aimed for tolls as low as possible — to reduce the odds that drivers clog nearby streets instead of entering the four-lane tunnel between Sodo and South Lake Union.

A $2.25 toll is even less than the local transit fare of $2.75.

Toll income is supposed to pay off $200 million worth of construction debt that’s part of an overall $3.3 billion estimate to build the 1.7-mile tunnel, connecting ramps and a waterfront boulevard. Tolls would provide $170 million more for ongoing maintenance through 2046. Rates would rise 3 percent every three years after 2022.

The $200 million target broke the Legislature’s pledge to raise $400 million toward construction, in the 2009 law authorizing a deep tunnel.

The pro-tunnel consensus was led by then-Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who argued a tunnel eliminates waterfront blight, and former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who vowed to remove the quake-prone Alaskan Way Viaduct by 2012.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) admitted in 2012 that upon further review, the $400 million goal was unrealistic, or would at least force a $4 toll rate and rampant traffic diversion to surface streets.

More gas-tax money is funding the tunnel instead of being available for other statewide work.

In addition, lawsuits continue about who will cover which share of an alleged $600 million in tunnel overruns — contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, insurance companies, boring-machine builder Hitachi Zosen, the soil and engineering consultants, or state taxpayers.

Tolls won’t be charged until sometime in 2019. WSDOT will set a date in consultation with the commission, said state toll spokesman Ethan Bergerson.

WSDOT prefers to wait for several reasons:

• To allow time for testing of Highway 99 toll equipment and software in live traffic.

• To complete the upcoming conversion to new operating companies for both technical and customer-service in the five-road, Good to Go toll network.

• To reduce public aggravation and avoid worsening traffic congestion by detouring drivers next year as surface Alaskan Way is blocked by viaduct demolition.

Transit buses, public- and private-school buses, employee buses such as Microsoft Connector, registered van pools and emergency vehicles will be exempt from tolls, said Carl See, the commission’s senior financial analyst.