Condolences and remembrances continued to pour in Monday for former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, who died unexpectedly over the weekend. The Minnesota congressman carved out a four-decade career in the House of Representatives as an expert on transportation policy, first as an aide and then as a lawmaker. He was the ranking member on the T&I Committee for many years because the Democrats were in the minority, but became chairman in 2007 and held that position until his re-election defeat in late 2010.
“He was among the most knowledgeable of all members of Congress about the value of our nation's ports and waterways for delivering economic sustainability and job growth,” Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities, said in a statement. "He will be missed."
The AAPA honored Oberstar with its "Port Person of the Year" award in 2003 for his contributions toward advancing America's freight transportation system, including authoring or co-authoring six Water Resources
Development Acts from 1986 to 2000, and various Coast Guard and Coastal Zone
Management reauthorizations and amendments.
Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, released the following statement:
"Jim Oberstar was the epitome of a statesman. He truly believed good policy made good politics. For more than 40 years, Jim combined an encyclopedic knowledge of intermodal transportation issues with a practical ability to forge consensus among parties with divergent perspectives. The end result is a long, unmatched list of legislative achievements in the transportation arena.
"In the air, he fought for safer airline cabins, adequate emergency exits, and floor-proximity directional lighting. On the ground, he was a driving force and author of historic federal highway, bridge, and public transportation investment laws in 1991, 1998 and 2005. His goal always was to make travel in the U.S. more safe, efficient and accessible for all Americans."
Ruane said Oberstar will also be remembered by friends for his kindness, booming laugh, story-telling and strong commitment to family.
"In all the years I dealt with members of Congress, there were very few who could bring to bear Jim Oberstar's kind of detailed knowledge of all kinds of transportation issues," said David Plavin, who sits on the board of the Eno Center for Transportation. "He not only reveled in the minutiae of the different modes and their respective needs and demands, but he also understood the need for intermodal thinking, an even rarer perspective among his colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
For more details about Oberstar's accomplishments
, read Monday's full obituary.