Media deceptively claim stimulus funds going to "train station" that "hasn't been used in 30 years"

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

Media figures repeated Sen. Tom Coburn's claim that stimulus funds are being used "to renovate an abandoned train station that hasn't been used in 30 years." But while the station house has long been closed, "[t]he station's platform currently serves more than 80,000 passengers a year," as Coburn's report noted.

On June 16 and 17, several media figures repeated Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) claim that "[n]early $10 million" in stimulus funds is being used "to renovate an abandoned train station that hasn't been used in 30 years." In fact, as Coburn's own report on "100 stimulus projects" mentions, while the 97-year-old stone station house in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, has been closed for 30 years, "[t]he station's platform currently serves more than 80,000 passengers a year." Indeed, the Elizabethtown Amtrak station has reportedly nearly doubled its number of passengers since 2003-2004 and, according to the Pennsylvania State Department of Transportation, has had the highest increase in ridership in the past two years of any station along the Keystone corridor. According to Amtrak, the facility has no station hours, no ticket office hours, and no Quik-Trak hours.

Moreover, according to various accounts, the Elizabethtown Amtrak stop does not currently comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the station is not renovated to comply with the ADA by 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation has the right to shut it down -- a fact not mentioned in Coburn's report. Additionally, on April 4, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal reported that "[Pennsylvania State Department of Transportation secretary Allen] Biehler said the Elizabethtown station was the perfect 'shovel-ready project' because it has been in the works for several years."

The following media figures have cited Coburn's claim that stimulus money will fund a "train station" that hasn't been used in 30 years, without noting that the station's platform is frequently used:

  • During the June 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs said: "Tonight, a report that the Obama administration is wasting billions of your tax dollars on questionable projects in the federal stimulus package. That accusation comes from a Republican lawmaker who says he's identified 100 of the worst examples of waste." Correspondent Ines Ferré went on to report: "Among the projects highlighted in Coburn's report ... more than 9 million for an old train station in Pennsylvania that, according to Coburn, hasn't been used in 30 years."
  • On the June 16 edition of ABC's World News, Capitol Hill correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that "Senator Coburn issued a report today listing 100 stimulus projects he considers wasteful," including "nearly $10 million to fix up a train station in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that hasn't been used in nearly 30 years." Karl added: "Local officials say the money will help them reopen the station, and increase ridership."
  • On the June 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, while talking about Coburn's report, co-host Steve Doocy commented: "How about a train station that has not been used in 30 years? Let's give them $10 million to fix it up. The check has already been cashed."

In his report, Coburn listed the Elizabethtown project as one of the "Top Ten" examples of waste in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The section of his report that addressed the project is titled: "Taxpayers Taken for a Ride: Nearly $10 Million to be Spent to Renovate a Century Old Train Station that Hasn't Been Used in 30 Years."

From the June 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Tonight, a report that the Obama administration is wasting billions of your tax dollars on questionable projects in the federal stimulus package. That accusation comes from a Republican lawmaker who says he's identified 100 of the worst examples of waste. Ines Ferré has our report.

[begin video clip]

FERRÉ: It's been four months since the $787 billion stimulus bill was passed. One Republican senator is already calling out the government for 100 stimulus projects that he says are questionable or just pure waste.

COBURN: When I look at these things, I think about what would our grandchildren say. A dose of common sense on where this money goes is sorely lacking in this bill.

FERRÉ: Among the projects highlighted in Coburn's report: $3.4 million for a tunnel in Florida that will let turtles and other creatures cross a highway; $1 billion for FutureGen, a coal energy plant in Illinois that has been controversial even among environmentalists; more than 9 million for an old train station in Pennsylvania that, according to Coburn, hasn't been used in 30 years.

[end video clip]

From the June 16 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC News chief Washington correspondent): In your money tonight, how your tax dollars are being spent in the economic stimulus plan. One senator scoured the list and says he found millions of dollars in questionable projects. So, our Capitol Hill correspondent Jon Karl scrubbed it, too.

[...]

COBURN: We're borrowing money that we don't have to spend on things that we don't need in the name of economic stimulus, when there are things we could spend it on that we do need.

KARL: Senator Coburn issued a report today listing 100 stimulus projects he considers wasteful, including $578,000 for Union, New York, for homeless prevention, but town officials say they have no homeless problem. They're using the money to help seniors pay their energy bills. And nearly $10 million to fix up a train station in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that hasn't been used in nearly 30 years. Local officials say the money will help them reopen the station, and increase ridership.

From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): And speaking of cash, let's talk a little bit about where some of your tax dollars went for that big stimulus plan, because you might be a little outraged this morning to find out that this town in New York, upstate New York, called Union, apparently the government thought they had a homeless problem and they give them 500 -- was it $500 million or --

DOOCY: Five-hundred and eighty thousand.

CARLSON: -- $580,000 for their homeless problem, and Union said, guess what? We don't have a homeless problem, but we'll make one so we can get the cash. And that's exactly what happened. They set up sort of a committee to figure out if they actually did have one, in a way to use the money. So how many other stinkers like that are out there?

[...]

DOOCY: How about a train station that has not been used in 30 years? Let's give them $10 million to fix it up. The check has already been cashed.

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, ABC, CNN
Person
Steve Doocy, Lou Dobbs, Jonathan Karl
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight, FOX & Friends, World News with Charles Gibson
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