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Citizen activist releases “Boatload of Questions” CRC video

Posted by on October 20th, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Citizen uber-activist and professional animator Spencer Boomhower has released a thoughtful new video on the Columbia River Crossing Project. You might remember Boomhower as the guy who created the Idaho Stop Law animation that spread nationwide and has since been viewed over 44,000 times.

Boomhower says he put out his latest video on the CRC project because he wanted people to know more about the project in advance of a crucial vote for Metro President. One candidate in that race, Tom Hughes, supports the project. The other, Bob Stacey, opposes it (the two were separated by only a few percentage points in the primary).

In the ten minute video (watch it below), Boomhower puts the costs ($3.6 billion according to project staff and over twice that much according to a recent analysis) and scope of the project into easily understandable, visual terms. He also takes a look at the significant savings that would come from some alternative proposals and asks, “Can we think outside the box?”. “We can’t afford not to,” is his answer.

Boomhower presented a similar video at the recent CRC Alternatives Panel hosted by Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, but the video below has been significantly updated.

This video is highly recommended for everyone that lives in Oregon and Washington…

The Columbia River Crossing: A Boatload of Questions from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Darwin October 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Very nicely done!

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Jonathan!

    There’s an acknowledgement in the credits to BikePortland for its coverage of the Columbia River Crossing; that’s there mainly because this is where I first heard about the CRC, something like three years ago.

    It’s been bugging me ever since. 🙂

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  • Roland October 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Clearly we’ve entered the era of the “multimedia activist.” Things like this hold vast untapped potential for swaying public opinion. Don’t believe me? Two words: Chocolate Rain.

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  • Dave October 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Please God just build it so we can stop arguing about it. We can’t get a bike lane on Powell Boulevard, but we’ll throw ourselves repeatedly against the brick wall that is a well funded federal civil engineering project?

    Jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick, people. Make sure the bike facilities are good. Make sure light rail is included. Then walk away, and worry about something you can have a positive impact on.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm


    “but we’ll throw ourselves repeatedly against the brick wall that is a well funded federal civil engineering project?”

    Well that’s one part of the problem: it’s not funded. The only money that’s been secured is the hundred million or so that’s been put into planning it. (And I think maybe another fifty or so million secured for more planning.)

    Hmm, maybe I should have conveyed that better; I’d thought to break the stacks of money into “secured funding” and “unsecured funding” piles, and then make the unsecured money translucent. But, time constraints; whatcha gonna do.

    In general though, I think if we find money to pour money into a civil engineering project, we’d want to make it one that will support the region’s goals once complete.

    Also, the bike facilities: another thing I’d have addressed if I’d had time. We don’t get to see many cross-sections of the CRC, or ground-level views, but I think it might be quite steep. At some point I saw there was going to be an elevator to get up to the bike/ped lanes from Hayden, and then it only rises higher to get over the river.

    Certainly the current bike crossing sucks, but I’m not sure the CRC as planned will be able to offer anything all that more appealing, just by virtue of it being a very tall freeway bridge. But I really haven’t had a chance to look too deeply into it.

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  • michweek October 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Does anyone have a link to the video that will work on mobile platforms?

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  • peejay October 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I for one won’t stop arguing about it. Perceived inevitability does not take the stupid away from this project.

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  • peejay October 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    BTW, I’m here in Shenzhen, China, right now. The place is one half-completed CRC after another, and is a total disaster. I’m sure nobody gets to decide if all the roads they’re building are right for them, and they certainly can’t stop the madness. Portland is not China. We CAN stop this.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm


    re: mobile platforms, this morning I converted that Vimeo account to a “plus” membership, specifically so I could get the video to work on mobile devices. Apparently it takes some time to convert over, but it should be in process; it seems to be taking its time about it, though.

    I’ll post here when it gets converted.

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  • Will October 20, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Awesome job, Spencer, very well thought out and executed

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  • deborah October 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you Spencer for all the hard work you did on this – it’s incredible! I agree that the battle isn’t lost yet!

    Seems like even people that make the commute to Portland everyday and have the most to benefit from the project are really starting to think twice because they don’t want the tolls. Maybe the closer we get to implementing this bad idea people will really start to comprehend what they’ve ‘signed up for’ and balk at it’s price tag too.

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  • PdxMark October 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Great job Spencer. FYI – The graphic at 1:17 says millions, instead of billions.

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  • Patrick McMahon October 20, 2010 at 6:49 pm


    As someone from outside the region I want to thank you for inspiring us to put together clear, thoughtful materials that can educate individuals and challenge the existing process.

    I’ve sent your “Idaho Stop Law” to numerous folks outside Oregon that are interested in the same ideas and this is a great example for how to question and challenge a big wasteful project like the CRC. If only you could somehow be funded to work on these kinds of things full-time (but maybe that would make it less interesting).

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  • John Lascurettes October 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm


    The graphic at 1:17 also shows $2,600-$3,400 Million dollars. Note those are thousands of millions of dollars which equal billions. Yeah, it’s confusing and it should probably be changed to help with that confusion – but it’s technically correct.

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  • Steve B October 21, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I’ll be sure to leave a comment after I pick my jaw up off the floor.

    Brilliant work, Mr. Boomhower!

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  • Spiffy October 21, 2010 at 7:09 am

    awesome video! I’m convinced…

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  • jim October 21, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Nicely done Spencer, and good questions too. How come we don’t stand up and question our white house about their spending habits? I hear their deficiet every month is the same as the yearly def. of the last administration…..

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  • Supercourse October 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

    BRAVO….. and while I’m ranting…. why can’t we leave the old Hawthorne up for people and bikes !

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  • Lenny Anderson October 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Thanks Spencer! I’ve been singing those “Deep River Blues” ever since I first saw your work at the Liberty’s alternatives panel. Great work. And to think that the Governors’ I-5 Task Force split down the middle almost 10 years ago on doing a serious study of a lower cost arterial option.

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  • Matt Giraud October 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Wow! As always, beautiful work and design, Spencer!

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  • Evan Manvel October 21, 2010 at 9:06 am

    It’s a great video – well done!

    As far as millions vs. billions language – I think that people have a hard time understanding what billions are, and comparing scale of things in different units.

    Hence, having something list “$3400 million” may make it easier to compare with “$25 million”; vs. trying to compare “$3.4 billion” with “$25 million.”

    That’s why I try to list the cost in thousands of millions (and bike projects in millions, which they are usually a fraction of, e.g. “$0.1 million”)

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  • wally October 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Great job.

    Interesting info on the Marquam Bridge. Didn’t ODOT recently spend millions to give the bridge a seismic upgrade?

    It amazes me that we can still see, and in some cases, use structures built by the Romans 2,000 years ago, but we want to tear down bridges that are less than 100 years old.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

    michweek #6,

    It appears that the video has been converted finally into a mobile format, or a format that I can view on an iPhone, at least! Hope that works for you.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Thanks a ton for all the feedback!

    As for the millions/billions thing, Evan Manvel pretty much nails it in #21: writing it out in thousands of millions is a way of trying to convey just how big these numbers are.

    This came up at Robert Liberty’s alternatives panel; either Chris Gerard or Gary Toth (I forget which) suggested that this kind of money should only be discussed in millions.

    That’s a big part of the point of the video; trying to get a grasp on how much we’re being asked to spend, and what we’re getting for it.

    I find billions hard to grasp. My brain kind of short-circuits when it tries to grok a billion (and even a million, to some degree), so that’s why I created a new currency to throw around: shipping-container-sized piles of one-dollar-bills, each valued at around $78 million.

    When I first heard 100 million had been spent on planning the CRC, I thought: wow, that’s a lot. But 4 *billion* for the total project? It sounds like… well, a lot, also. But it wasn’t until I started stacking up those containers that I felt like I got a grasp of the difference between those two numbers.

    In a similar manner, I felt like discussing things in millions helped with that.

    Interesting to note that the recent Impresa document that came out consistently puts the numbers in terms of millions.

    But one thing different about the video is that its format is totally INconsistent. Sometimes it says 3,600,000,000, sometimes it says 3,600 million, and for the funding shortfall it says 6 billion. Some of this was just stylistic choice, but I thought the inconsistency might throw people off – and that might be a good thing. Having to constantly recalibrate for the format you’re looking at might get you thinking more about the numbers being discussed.

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  • Spencer Boomhower October 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Matt #20,

    Much appreciated! I would have loved to have been able to get your input on scoring, pacing, v.o., and editing; you know, all that stuff one doesn’t learn in the course of making video games. 🙂

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  • jim October 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    When the big quake happens, which they predict a 9.0, the latest info they have they think it will happen in our lifetime, I doubt that any seismic upgrades are going to be good enough to save that old bridge.

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  • Jonathan Gordon October 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Fantastic job, Spencer. I like Roland’s (#3) title for you: multimedia activist. You should print that out on your next batch of business cards.

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