Matt Shea bill targets road art

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 22, 2014, 5:56 A.M.

OLYMPIA – The Washington state Transportation Department would be barred from spending highway construction money for art or special concrete designs on walls and bridges under a Spokane Valley legislator’s bill.

But that might not save much money to spend on other projects. The department said it doesn’t spend any money on art for road or bridge projects, and the most elaborate concrete designs seen alongside highways around the state are funded by local communities.

In an effort to find ways to make the state’s transportation dollars go farther, Rep. Matt Shea proposed HB 2092 that would bar money from designated sources like gasoline taxes from going to art or artistic designs.

“There’s a perception out there that we spend a lot of money on art and textured concrete,” Shea told the House Transportation Committee Tuesday.

The Art in Public Places program, established by the Legislature in 1974, requires one-half of 1 percent of the cost of a public building to be spent on art projects. But that doesn’t apply to transportation projects, said Alyssa Ball, a researcher for the committee said, because the state Constitution requires fuel taxes and vehicle fees to be spent only for highway purposes, said Alyssa Ball, a researcher for the committee said.

Textured concrete can add 1 percent or less to the cost of the concrete on a bridge or wall, but studies show it cuts down on maintenance and is less likely to be targeted by graffiti, said Pasco Bakotich, a design engineer, said. The department’s design manual does call for textured concrete “architectural finishes,” but if a community wants anything beyond 10 standard designs, it pays the extra cost, he said.

What about the Transportation Department’s buildings”, Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden, asked about the Transportation Department’s buildings – how much is spent on art for those them that could be spent instead on road construction?

Mike Sweeney from the state Arts Commission, which administers the public arts program, said he’d have to research the total, but he added there hasn’t been anything spent since 1999 “and we don’t have anything in the works.”

Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Ballard, said she was a big fan of public art projects, because otherwise buildings would “look like the Soviet Union.”

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