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CRC update: Astroturf, Alice, and more cheerleading in The Oregonian

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 11th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Graphic from Washington For CRC on Facebook.

If reports on Twitter are to be trusted, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is all set to sign The CRC Bill (HB 2800) into law on Tuesday. While that's no surprise, there are a few other items related to the Columbia River Crossing project that have recently caught our eye.

— A reader has tipped us off to WashingtonForCRC.org and what looks like a classic astroturf campaign. And by that I mean a corporate PR effort made to seem like an organic, grassroots lobbying effort. Now that Oregon has effectively signed-off on it, it looks like the pushers of this controversial mega-project have wasted no time trying to improve public sentiment on other side of the river. It's a smart move, given that if the project's outlook doesn't improve in Washington soon, it won't move forward. WashingtonForCRC.org comes complete with a super-slick website listing "facts" about the project (which are taken directly from paid CRC consultants' talking points), an active Facebook and Twitter presence, and even a cute logo of a bridge with a heart on it.

While Washington For CRC spokespeople say the group is simply the work of citizens and business owners coming together to rally support for the project, Clark County Conservative blogger Lew Waters calls it nothing more than a professional marketing campaign.

— Speaking of marketing campaigns, Matt Garrett, the Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation penned a guest opinion column in The Oregonian today titled, "ODOT is ready to help build the Columbia River Crossing." He called the project, "critical to maintain our state's competitive edge and the future economic health," and said, "It is indeed time to build this bridge."

— An outspoken supporter of the CRC project, Fred Meyer Stores, is now a "Lead Sponsor" of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's upcoming Alice Awards benefit auction event. A Fred Meyer spokesperson testified on behalf of HB 2800 at a hearing in Salem on February 18th, saying the project was essential to Oregon's economy and a bigger freeway and bridge is urgently needed to keep their delivery trucks moving. According to the BTA's sponsorship packet a Lead Sponsorship costs $10,000.

This BTA has said that they don't support HB 2800, but they haven't worked to oppose it either. In trying to understand the BTA's difficult tightrope walk around the CRC project, it's important to note that one of their current board members, Oregon State Representative Val Hoyle (D-Eugene), voted yes on HB 2800 when it passed the House last month.

See more of our Columbia River Crossing project coverage in the archives.

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  • 9watts March 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    This just gets worse and worse. At least now we know where Matt Garrett's priorities lie because there ain't going to be a dime left for anything else his dep't does--I mean used to do. Oh fun!

    Matt Garrett in the interview with JM:
    "So, is it accurate to think of this evolution at ODOT as an attempt to level the playing field, organizationally-speaking, for biking and walking?

    "What it does, is that it allows the voice to come to the table. It's not drowned out, or hiding in the shadows of the big highway portfolio. But don't get me wrong, the reality is, if you look at the expenditures in the highway portfolio, it is just taking care of the asset right now, it is preservation and maintenance, that's who we are as an organization."
    http://bikeportland.org/2012/05/15/an-interview-with-odot-director-matt-garrett-part-1-71580

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  • Hart Noecker March 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Several other members of the BTA's board work for corporations listed on the CRC supporters page. Follow the money.

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  • bike-max-bike March 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Lame.

    Clearly an opportunity for new and existing advocacy groups to own the memberships and audiences of the OLCV, 1000 Friends, BTA and other so called environment and social justice organizations.

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  • 9watts March 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    As for the astroturf effort, the Salem Chamber of Commerce has tried a less covert but--according to my sources--nevertheless rather hapless social media campaign to give the appearance that there is support of the 'Third Bridge.' It deals in platitudes.
    http://face2face.salemchamber.org/profiles/blogs/salem-chamber-launches-third-bridge-alliance
    http://www.facebook.com/ThirdBridgeAlliance

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  • Spencer Boomhower March 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    That astroturfing is so cloying. But of course the best marketing effort yet seen is getting everyone -- including CRC detractors -- to refer to this thing as a bridge project.

    I summed up my immediate, "that's no bridge" response here:

    http://screencast.com/t/XcpQCfdlmZ

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  • Craig Harlow March 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    BIG sigh (of exasperation)

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  • Spiffy March 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Now I'm glad I haven't donated to the BTA. I thought they were coming more into line with the political ideals of bicycle riders in the last year and I was thinking they might be deserving with all the recent good press but it looks like they're back to their old ways of political ineptitude.

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  • Gracie March 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you so much for your coverage of the CRC, Jonathan. I am feeling very let down by BTA, OLCV, 1000 Friends, Jules Bailey,and Diane Rosenbaum, and John Kitzhaber. Did Neil Goldschmidt steal their brains or what??

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    • Ross Williams March 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

      Ask Him!

      Java with Jules

      Date: Saturday, March 30, 2013
      Time: 10:00 am- 11:30 am
      Where: Common Grounds Coffee House
      4321 SE Hawthorne Blvd. MAP

      Please join me Saturday, March 30th, for our ongoing Java with Jules series. I look forward to sharing with you what I have been working on so far this session and hearing your concerns and ideas. You can RSVP by emailing us at rep.julesbailey@state.or.us or calling 503-986-1442.

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  • Jeff Bernards March 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    ODOT can't even replace 82nd ave, give me a break Mr. Garrett. 82nd needs to be rebuilt, you need four wheel drive to dodge all the potholes and studded tire damage. I think a lot more commerce goes on 82nd that more people can access than I-5.

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  • Alan 1.0 March 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Curious things on that website...the "About Us" link doesn't say anything about any actual people, just generic "Washington citizens and businesses supporting the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project." The link for "Supporters" has specific names but it is made up simply of quotes drawn from various other public sources, nothing specific to Washington For CRC and none indicating they support this org. The domain WASHINGTONFORCRC.ORG is registered to "Bcause Media," AKA http://bcausemedia.com/. It's a marketing firm in Vancouver doing "award-winning digital marketing and social media optimization," co-founded by these gents with their self descriptions:

    Noland Hoshino: Social Good Marketing Strategist, Do-Good Enforcer, Content Curator, Volunteer Evangelist and Givologist.

    Bryan Dainty: Into sustainability, business, health/fitness, music, technology.

    Hired guns, for sure.

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    • Paul in the 'couve March 11, 2013 at 10:06 pm

      Hey Alan, did you notice they have a Town Hall Meeting planned for ESD 112 at 10:00 AM on Sat. March 16 ? I think we should go.

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      • Alan 1.0 March 11, 2013 at 10:15 pm

        I hadn't noticed so thanks for the shout, but I have a prior commitment that day. It will be interesting who shows up, there. I'd be surprised if Lew Waters wasn't there.

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  • Paul in the 'couve March 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    The event description says: "Join Senator Annette Cleveland, Representative Jim Moeller, and Representative Sharon Wylie in a town hall meeting about the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) Project."

    Here is a direct link: http://www.washingtonforcrc.org/th_event/crc-townhall/

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  • Bjorn March 12, 2013 at 12:49 am

    They seem to be paying someone to actively scrub any negative information off their facebook page. I posted something that mentioned the project is only projected to save 1 minute off washington driver's commute time, which is true, and it was down in 15 minutes and I had been booted from their page.

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  • resopmok March 12, 2013 at 5:16 am

    I don't think it should come as a surprise how these things are turning out. We can be disappointed for sure, but between the money already spent developing a plan (no matter how bad it is) and the general indifference of political organization to anything besides their own self-promotion, this sort of (in)action is typical of how big interests get their way in our country.

    It's an unfortunate reality in our society that bold, visionary leaders won't get a seat at the table. Money talks, everything else walks. Boo.

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  • Craig Harlow March 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I love the irony... The "astroturf" campaign utilizes art with what looks like a football grid (above).

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  • are March 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

    both the dot org and dot com versions of the website are "down for maintenance"

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    • Alan 1.0 March 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Charles Dudley Warner's words on bedfellows ring true.

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  • Zach March 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I think y'all are living in an echo chamber and (for better or for worse) have a massively warped image of how much opposition there actually is to this project. A friend of mine takes constituent calls for a state rep in a very liberal district in Portland and she told me she has not ever received one about the CRC.

    Not one.

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    • Robert Ping March 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Zach, I think you are right, there isn't much opposition; because the public isn't getting much information about this freeway expansion project. I talk to lot's of smart people about it, who really don't know. WW's few opinions are great, but against the flood of Oregonian opinions, the PR campaign, and the legislators holding their noses and voting for it, the public will only learn the consequences after this thing get's started or finished. Two or three years after the bridge is built, when traffic will be no better, or worse, than before, there will likely be a PR campaign to put blame for the failure on some other scapegoat. Or, since the 84 interchange will be worse after the CRC is built, we will be sold on spending hundreds of millions to 'fix' that freeway section, and on and on and on...

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  • Robert Ping March 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Should I Laugh or Cry?: Mr Garrett says that cycling is "not drowned out, or hiding in the shadows of the big highway portfolio" - but aren't the bike lanes actually going to be "hiding in the shadows", hidden directly underneath the bridge's "big highway portfolio"? And what about the shadows cyclists will likely experience as they navigate around (and under?) the numerous new highway on and off ramps? Gee, I wish there was an image of what the new non-shadowy 'sun-kissed' cycling routes would look like...

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  • Josh G March 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Can't help but see the hearts in the logo as symbolic of the health outcomes of the CRC (seeing as both sides claim a change in air pollution)

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  • yellowjacket March 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Was the feasibility and cost of a tunnel under the river ever considered for the crossing?

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  • are March 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

    there may still be opportunities to volunteer for event support at the alice awards.
    https://secure.commonground.convio.com/bta/alice2013volunteers/
    once you are in the door and have fulfilled your volunteer tasks, you are a guest at the event, albeit not at a table on the main floor.

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  • GlowBoy March 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Zach, I don't think anyone here is under any illusions about public attitudes towards this project.

    Yellowjacket, if you look at the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project up in Seattle (which, along with the 520 bridge, is the main mega-project competing with the CRC for scarce Washington state funds), I don't see how a tunnel could come even remotely close to a bridge in cost. Remember that CRC is primarily a freeway expansion project that includes a bridge replacement. Most of the ~4 billion is not in the bridge itself.

    Then again, given the critical and still-unresolved height issue for the new bridge, I won't exactly be dumbfounded if the CRC folks regroup and propose exactly that. What's a couple extra billion? And oh .. whoops, boring separate additional tunnels for rail and human-powered users will just be too cost-prohibitive.

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  • yellowjacket March 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    The tunnel would likely rival Boston's Big Dig, and all it's cost overruns. Just finished reading the Feb 27 issue of W Week that has a cover story about Patricia McCaig, "The Woman Behind the Bridge." Highly recommend it.

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  • Terry Nobbe March 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Question: Since the current CRC includes bike/ ped access, will the proposed CRC include the same? Would improved access across ALSO include easier access to the bike/ ped entry/ egress points?

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    • Alan 1.0 March 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      There is no such thing as "the current CRC," the only CRC is a proposal. It's a freeway expansion project including about five interchanges, several more lanes for five miles, light rail and a bridge.

      The plan for the new bridge originally, up to recently, included bike/ped access. A fairly recent version, pared down for costs, was less clear about that. I'd be surprised if the bridge were built without bike/ped access, but it may well be as bad or worse than the Glenn Jackson bridge MUP.

      Access to I-5 bridge sidewalks is presently pretty easy. (Some of the MUP route through Delta Park and Hayden Island is confusing.) Ramps from street level to bridge height are short and not steep, if a bit narrow, and on both sides of both ends of the bridge. With the height of the new bridge somewhere near 120-150 feet, it's going to be considerably more climbing to cross it, and with all the freeway lanes and ramps along with it, the CRC MUP ramps most likely won't be as convenient as the present ones.

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