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OK Senator Decries Route 66 Sign-Restoration Grant as Wasteful

Coburn rails against National Park Service matching grant for Whiting Bros. sign restoration



With all of the hot debate surrounding U.S. government spending, elected officials on both sides of the aisle are debating which programs have excess waste. Some say healthcare spending is out of control, whereas others say military spending needs to be curtailed.

In contrast, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has determined that a sign-restoration project on Route 66 near Moriarty, NM, which was funded in part by a matching grant from the National Park Service (NPS), which tallied all of $7,715, is the poster child for the government’s fiscal irresponsibility. According to KRQE, an Albuquerque radio station, Coburn specifically called out the investment in restoring the property’s two vintage signs, which identify a former Whiting Bros. gas station (property owner Sal Lucero now owns a tire store and oil-changing operation there), as frivolous in his "Wastebook", which recounts billions in what he terms unnecessary government spending. Whiting Bros. was once a chain that operated approximately 100 filling stations, many of them along Route 66.

The NPS funds will help pay for repainting the signs, removing rust and restoring its neon back to its former, glowing glory. In KRQE’s report, Debbie Pogue, who runs a motel near the station, said restoring such a sign will help reinforce the Mother Road’s status as a tourist mecca — and a vital cog in New Mexico’s economy. According to the article, the repairs are slated for completion in the spring.

In his Wastebook, Coburn decries the approximately $220,000 the government spent over the past decade on the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for similar projects. One wonders why Coburn is so up in arms about a comparatively miniscule disbursement in the face of government excesses. Does he think preserving a vital part of American history is unimportant, or is he just mad that the funds didn’t embellish his own state’s expanse of Route 66?

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