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Sunday Spin: Spokane delegation makes its annual trek west

OLYMPIA – A delegation of more than 80 Spokane-area folks arrived here last week with their annual “agenda” – some might call it a wish list – of things the Legislature could do to make life better for the state in general and the center of the Inland Empire in particular.

This annual trek to the capital sponsored by Greater Spokane, Inc., herds well-briefed leaders of business, political, education and civic groups through the marbled rooms and committee rooms and is the envy of many other cities and counties around Washington. It has prompted the sincerest form of flattery, imitation, from other communities but many legislators still say Spokane’s full-court press lobbying remains the best.

At least that’s what some tell members of the Spokane throng. Others offer recollections of their last visit to the city or Spokane Valley, or some other anecdote to show they are all paisans. . . 

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Prospects poor for highway package, GSI group told

OLYMPIA – Don't get your hopes up for new money to finish the North-South Freeway, a group of business, civic and political leaders from Spokane was told Wednesday.

The chances the Legislature will pass a package of big road projects paid by a gasoline tax are almost non-existent.

Some legislators blamed politics or the lack of support among Republican legislators from the Spokane area. Others blamed problems at the state Transportation Department. Some said a package can't make it out of the Legislature during the current abbreviated session. Others said any package that did would surely wind up on the ballot, where voters would reject it.

Together, they painted a bleak outlook for one of the top items – and by far the most expensive – on the Greater Spokane Inc. 2014 agenda as more than 80 local leaders arrived in Olympia for their annual three-day lobbying session. .  .

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Barring road art might not save much

OLYMPIA — The state Transportation Department would be barred from spending highway construction money for art or special concrete designs on walls and bridges under a 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
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“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, Alyssa Ball, a researcher for the committee said, because the state Constitution requires fuel taxes and vehicle fees to spent only for highway purposes.
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, 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, Bakotich said.
What about the Transportation Department's buildings, Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden, asked. How much is spent on art for 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 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.”