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Spokane to Spend Nearly $1M for Street art, Murals

(The Center Square) – The Spokane City Council has voted to spend nearly $1 million on crosswalk art and murals that are intended to represent the culture of neighborhoods, calm traffic, and promote economic development.

The proposal brought forward by Councilor Zack Zappone found favor with four of his peers.

“There are a lot of different designs, and it gives character to the community,” he said.

Councilor Karen Stratton said at Monday’s meeting that her constituents had given positive feedback about the pilot programs

“They really felt it was a way to identify and create a sense of what the neighborhood was all about,” she said.

However, Councilors Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle voted against the expenditure, saying there were plenty of traffic calming measures, such as stop signs and hawk lights, that had been requested by residents but had yet to be funded.  

“I would like to see those prioritized above this,” said Bingle.

“To me, the program seems like a really cool, neat idea,” Cathcart said. “But… a million dollars for a cool, neat idea is a lot of money to spend, particularly at a time when material costs are skyrocketing, inflation is skyrocketing [and] fuel prices are skyrocketing.”

Council President Breean Beggs agreed with Zappone that asphalt art had been shown in other cities to make people slow down near crosswalks.

“If it does, it’s well worth the money,” he said.

Zappone had cited a study of 17 cities by Bloomberg Philanthropies that found art on and around streets decreased traffic crashes by 50% and serious injuries by 36%. Motorists were shown to yield more immediately to pedestrians. “There are a lot of different designs, and it gives character to the community,” he said.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials also recommends crosswalk art for its public safety benefits.

The $972,750 added by the council on June 13 to the Traffic Calming Measures Fund will be split between two pilot programs. The street mural program receives $672,750 and the community crosswalks program $300,000.

Zappone said each of the six districts in Spokane will have two crosswalks to paint during the three-year inaugural program. He said the actual costs for that work are unknown, although the estimate had been based on the $25 dollar per square foot price tag in Seattle.

Councilors Betsy Wilkerson and Lori Kinnear also voted in favor of the expenditure.

Spokane Pride recently began asking for help from the public to select the location of the first-ever rainbow-painted crosswalk in the city. People can vote as spokaneprid.org on the location for that crosswalk: Monroe Street and Northwest Boulevard, Spokane Falls Boulevard and Howard Street, South Perry Street and 10th Street and Post Street and Garland Avenue.