Super-Interesting Changes in The Amount of Driving We Do

Vehicle Miles Travelled Forecast ComparisonWSDOT released a new forecast of gas tax revenue based on a new forecast of how much people are likely to drive in the future. Less.

There are a lot of factors that drive this change, and you can read more about them on Sightline, The Seattle Times, or the actual wonky report itself, published by the Office of Financial Management.

This is a major change in how we look at the future, and will have big implications. Basically, raising the gas tax by a penny will get you a lot less revenue. Of course, you won’t have to build as much highway infrastructure if it’s true, so maybe that will work itself out. I think the uncertainty leads us to depend less on borrowing against the projected revenue stream. If we were to increase the gas tax and not borrow against the new stream of revenue we would build fewer projects at the beginning, but have more flexibility in the future to respond when we see how drivers really behave.

Changes my thinking some about how we should build a transportation package and what should be in it.

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Golden Crayon Award

Golden CrayonsThe Early Learning Action Alliance gave me a “Golden Crayon” award for my efforts last session to pass the “Early Start” bill. The bill had a lot of moving parts, but the main idea was to focus on improving the quality of the childcare we have now so that we reap the benefits down the road in improved outcomes for at-risk youngsters.

Somewhere there are a lot of children who have boxes of crayons with no gold ones.  This is the sad part of an otherwise lovely award. It came with a nice plaque too:


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Roundtable Urges Transportation Investment

Aerial Photo of 520 Bridge Construction near Medina

520 Bridge Construction near Medina

Crosscut reported today on a press conference by Steve Mullin, the head of the Washington Roundtable urging the Legislature to pass a transportation package, and touting a Boston Consulting Group study that the package would generate a lot of economic activity in the next 30 years – far more than the cost of the projects.

The Washington Roundtable argued Tuesday that passing $7 billion worth of transportation improvements in the 2015 legislative session would create $42 billion worth of economic benefits to Washington in the next 30 years.
Report: Inaction on transportation is expensive for state, public

I totally agree.

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Teen Births Decline!

birth rates by state - 2012I got email from one of our regular contributors yesterday that wanted us to follow Colorado’s example in reducing teenage births in Washington. Since 2008 teenage births (to women age 15-19) have declined almost 40% in Colorado, an amazing statistic. The website this is from ( claims this has saved Colorado $41 million in that time. This is not unreasonable – both states pay hospital costs for births to women below about 250% of the federal poverty level through Medicaid.

Colorado provided IUD and implants to women at no or low cost through 68 family planning clinics. The cost of the birth control is very low per-person (particularly with long-lasting examples like implants and IUDs) compared to the cost of a live birth, let alone one with complications. Colorado nets a pretty significant savings.

I told him I didn’t want to do what Colorado is doing. Why would I do that?

The great story here is that teen birth rates have declined precipitously across the nation. The rate of decline can obscure the relative position of the states. You can see the overall decline in the chart on the right.teen birth rate decline

In the map at the top of the post you can see that the two states are close to the same actual birth rate (the same lavender color). Colorado’s rate of decline was steeper than ours, but they started in a much worse position. Washington  was about 20% lower than Colorado in 2008 and dropped about 30% in the time since. We are still lower than Colorado today.

The teen birth rate (per 1000 women age 15-19) in Washington was 23.9 in 2012. In Colorado it was 25.4. I am not interested in getting to the Colorado level.

The chart with these numbers is available in the most current CDC report on this issue, available at the following link: The comparison data are on page 20.



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Progress Update on the 520 Project

The construction effort on 520 is about to move to the West side, after a long, long slog of a project. The last pontoons will be on the lake by November (if the creek don’t rise) and the details of the Eastside project will get finalized. The communication below is from Julie Meredith, the Program Administrator for the entire project (and one of my favorite engineers.)

If you check out some of the links you’ll see that the part of the new bridge that connects to the existing 520 is mostly temporary. it’s a complicated dance to keep the project moving forward without totally disrupting

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Every year we get the same scam

Central WA Fire

One of many fires in Central Washington this summer.

Somebody has a problem with the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair. Every year he (she?) sends a similar “notice of cancellation” of the Ellensburg Rodeo and Fair with some goofy excuse. Every year it’s not true. It’s not true this year either. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.

(The photo is a random shot I took of one of the many fires ravaging central Washington this summer. The view North is from the outlook on the way to Yakima a couple of weeks ago. It’s “near” Ellensburg, but isn’t causing the fair to be cancelled.) Continue reading

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Visiting Bertha (Many Photos)

One of the perks of the State Rep gig is that I get some cool tours. I’ve been inside pontoons on the 520 bridge, an aircraft carrier, Sound Transit tunnel construction, and last week the orifice the Bertha is creating. I took some photos that illustrate some aspects of the visit, though it’s hard to capture the sense of the project from a single walk-through.

The entry to the tunnel

The entry to the tunnel

The entrance to the actual tunnel is a large pit that I believe will eventually form the floor of the lower level of the tunnel. Right where the red erector set-like construction is in the back the level drops down and you’re below the level of the driving surface.

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No More Boarding the Mentally Ill in Emergency Rooms

The WA State Supreme Court released a decision this morning on psychiatric boarding in hospitals that basically prohibits the state from doing this. Judge Gonzales’ summary is quite pithy.

GONZALEZ, I.-Washington State’s involuntary treatment act (ITA), chapter 71.05 RCW, authorizes counties to briefly detain those who, “as the result of a mental disorder,” present an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others, or are gravely disabled. RCW 71.05.153(1), .230. The initial brief detention is for the limited purpose of evaluation, stabilization, and treatment, and once someone is detained under the IT A, he or she is entitled to individualized treatment. RCW 71.05.153, .230, .360(2). Pierce County frequently lacks sufficient space in certified evaluation and treatment facilities for all those it involuntarily detains under the ITA. It regularly resorts to temporarily placing those it involuntarily detains in emergency rooms and acute care centers via “single bed certifications” to avoid overcrowding certified facilities. Such overcrowding-driven detentions are often described as “psychiatric boarding.”  Patients psychiatrically boarded in single bed certifications generally receive only emergent care. After 10 involuntarily detained patients moved to dismiss the county’s ITA petitions, a trial judge found that psychiatric boarding is unlawful. We agree and affirm.  (

There are hundreds of patients in this category statewide and we are going to have to take action to resolve the situation or the courts will release the involuntary commitment petitions on these folks. In general, people in this situation need immediate treatment. Not providing treatment, but keeping them strapped down on gurneys in the hallways of hospitals has always been inhumane, now it is clearly illegal.

During the recession the state budget made significant reductions in mental health spending. We are starting to see the outcomes of this. Yet another category where we most certainly cannot take reductions in order to fund other more visible state services.

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Ross and Cyrus Raising funds for Fred Hutch

WP_20140720_001Rep. Cyrus Habib and I are riding in Obliteride August 9th and 10th to raise money for the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and the work they do to solve the problem of cancer. We’d love your support of the cause.

You may not know this, but both Cyrus and I are cancer survivors. He has a very rare childhood cancer that cost him his eyesight when he was in elementary school. I had stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma several years ago. In my case the Hutch saved me with a stem-cell transplant. This is a treatment that was pioneered here, and Seattle is still the best place in the world if you have the cancer I had.

Without the Hutch I wouldn’t be here, and neither would thousands of other survivors. You can contribute online here

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520 Progress – New Status Report from Chief Engineer

The SR 520 program is making lots of progress this summer – with 46 pontoons now on Lake Washington and a new Eastside transit stop open for transit riders! Today we also celebrated a new construction milestone on the floating bridge—installation of the first transition span. More details below.

Transition span installation on June 27Cool photo of transition span

Today crews began installing the first of four transition spans for the new SR 520 floating bridge. This first span will connect the new floating bridge with the stationary east approach, south segmental bridge near Medina. This section of the transition span is composed of five steel girders, each 190 feet long, over seven feet tall, and weighing about 45 tons.

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