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Oklahoma senator again criticizes Route 66 preservation program December 18, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Motels, Museums, Preservation, Signs.
Tags: , , , , ,

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) again targets the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program with his “Wastebook,” an annual publication released Tuesday that cites alleged government waste.

In the publication, Coburn criticized the $81,224 the program awarded in cost-share grants to restore the roof of the historic DeCamp Junction near Staunton, Ill., the climate-control system of the Hill Top Motel in Kingman, Ariz., and restore historic neon signs.

Coburn in particular cited the restoration of a neon sign in Illinois:

Federal resources will also be used to restore an “orphaned” neon sign in Litchfield, Illinois. The Vic Suhling Gas for Less Filling Station was opened from 1957 until 1973, and the building was finally razed in 1990. Yet, the sign for the station remained, towering over an empty lot for the subsequent 20 years. The sign was intended to be torn down in the early 2000’s, but was “was saved due to the forsight[sic] of visionary community members.” In 2013, with the help of $11,275 in federal funds, this long abandoned neon sign will be restored to operating condition in conjunction with Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center Association.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Vic Suhling Gas for Less sign was still standing over a vacant lot. However, it’s become a main centerpiece directing travelers to the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center. The sign could have been removed and sent to the junkyard. However, museum officials adapted the sign for a useful purpose and gave visitors an honest-to-goodness glimpse of Route 66′s past as well.

We’ve long figured out Coburn’s method of operation in these criticisms against the Route 66 program — cherry-pick a few facts and strip out context that would place the program in a favorable light. That way, Coburn could look like a tireless fighter against growth of the federal deficit, while he hopes you ignore that he voted for the $700 billion TARP program — an expansion of government spending if there ever was one.

Coburn’s report has been out barely 24 hours, and Route 66 advocates in New Mexico already are pushing back against it. One part of the report criticized a $7,715 cost-share grant in Moriarty, N.M., to restore two surviving signs of the long-gone Whiting Bros. gas station chain.

Debbie Pogue, co-owner of the nearby Sunset Motel, told KRQE-TV in Albuquerque:

“It’s going to be a beacon for every Route 66 aficionado coming up and down I-40,” Pogue said. [...]

Pogue says Coburn is way off base.

“I would say that I was very disappointed,” Pogue said. “It provides jobs, it brings in tourists, it bolsters the local economy.”

The criticism won’t stop the project. Pogue expects the signs will be up sometime in the spring, likely in April.

The next time Coburn talks about spending on Route 66 being wasteful, someone should give him this report. Route 66 tourism generates more than $100 million for the U.S. economy, and spending on historic preservation — for which the corridor program concentrates much of its resources –generates a per-capita economic impact that surpasses the insurance, highway construction and home construction industries.

Coburn also pushed for the dismantling of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program a few weeks ago.

You can contact Coburn here.

UPDATE 1/18/2014: Coburn announced he is stepping down from the Senate at the end of the year. One roadie expressed concern Coburn could cause mischief for the Route 66 program in the time he has left. However, he probably will be held in check by majority Senate Democrats, a Democratic president, his lack of influence, and his apparent waning enthusiasm for the job.

(Images courtesy of Jim Thole and RETRO — Relive the Route)


1. BlueSwallowMotel - December 18, 2013

Although we don’t live in Oklahoma, people everywhere need to rise up to try to educate igornorant government officials such as Dr. Coburn. He has heard from us!

2. Frank - December 18, 2013

Senator Colburn is one of those seemingly not so rare politicians who haven’t seen the sun in years. It’s what happens when you walk around with your head up your butt and only hearing what your corporate masters tell you.

3. Doc - December 18, 2013

I bet he has no problem voting for one of his pet projects or a raise/ perc for him and his cronies
Maybe it is time the people in Okla do as the people in Colo. did and have a recall and vote him out
This is history and it needs to be preserved.
I would have loved having the ability to see what more of the Alamo looked like with its more natural surroundings than a bunch of tall building around a small church. Seeing some of the outlaying area would be great .We allowed t to be swallowed up

4. Sal Paradise - December 18, 2013

Another present to the country from Oklahoma. I can remember when they sent us some great ones, like Woodie Guthrie and Will Rogers. Go to Rogers home county today and you probably couldn’t find anyone who’d vote for him against Coburn. Guthrie gets attacked there as a radical, communist and who knows what else as a movement popped up in state to disown him because of his politics. Weird place.

5. Klaas van der Heide - December 18, 2013

This was my message to your senator

Cutting budget on route 66 restauration is cutting income for the US. Why do you think people from all over the world are coming to Route66 like I did. Making my dream come thrue spending money in the USA. Read my blog calvencade.blogspot.com. Learn why we come a see the profits. Looking forward to your responds. Counting on it!

6. Robyn - December 18, 2013

Mr. Coburn is a doctor that sterilized women without their consent. He has no business walking the streets, let alone making decisions in our government. People, check out who you are voting for. It effects you in ways you can’t imagine. Such as for things good for the economy, such as Route 66 projects. It’s no surprise this guy would be against anything good and decent.

7. sean - December 19, 2013

Soory Mr. Coburn- I just spent 3 days at a conference whose sole focus was pretty much wrapped up in the value of Route 66 to the 8 states it exists in. He’s a hint: the number isn’t small. In some of the poorest parts of the country, Route 66 means jobs, and tourism. Dollars invested in Route 66 return more to the economy of Route 66 cities and towns.
Republicans like Coburn- knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing!

8. Heath holland - December 21, 2013

I’ve contacted him as well. I live in Alabama and drive Route 66 in part for those old signs. Those surviving signs and buildings rom the past are what will bring tourism to the road and lead it into the future. If it brought me from Alabama, how many more does it bring from all over the world? He’s clueless.

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