Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Loss of Senator Frank Lautenberg - The Safety Senator


Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away Monday at the age of 89. Transit riders across America benefited greatly from the senator’s efforts. In a statement on Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Frank’s tireless advocacy for transportation safety saved many lives - he truly was the Safety Senator”. Senator Lautenberg was influential for many of the country’s transportation policies including defending Amtrak from privatization, banning smoking in airplanes, stricter limits on blood alcohol content, and increasing the federal drinking age to 21.

His most recent efforts were in securing funding for the trans-Hudson rail project known as the ARC tunnel (Access to Regional Core). The two-decade old project created news headlines beginning 2010 over the head-butting between Senator Lautenberg and Governor Chris Christie. He had secured $6 billion in federal funding for a transit tunnel under the Hudson River before the New Jersey Governor cancelled the project twice in one month, saying the potential cost-overruns would be too much.

Even though the ARC Tunnel had been cancelled by Governor Christie two years earlier, Senator Lautenberg continued diligently on another “Gateway” tunnel. The Senator secured $185 million cash-infusion from post-Sandy aid to build a concrete encasement preserving the right-of-way. Still a full tunnel is decades away according to WNYC. His last tweet was about securing the funds and laying the groundwork for a future tunnel.

Governor Christie has maintained the feud saying that he is supportive of a second tunnel, just not the Senator’s ARC Tunnel. At a press conference on Tuesday he announced a special election in October to fill the vacant seat while describing the ARC Tunnel as “a dog that deserved to be gone”.

The Senator will be buried at Arlington Cemetery after being transported to D.C. by Amtrak. Amtrak released a statement saying, "We mourn the passing of Sen. Fran Lautenberg, a tireless advocate of Amtrak, passenger rail and improved mobility for the entire northeast region".

Reviewed by Chris Meyers

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