December 21, 2014

Lautenberg to ride rails one last time

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Sen. Lautenberg

Long an advocate for the region’s train system, Sen. Frank Lautenberg will ride the rails one last time on the way to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.

Funeral ceremonies for Lautenberg will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan, according to Riverside Memorial Chapel.

Read the complete article at The Star-Ledger.

The following comments were offered by SMART Transportation Division New Jersey State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell:

“It’s fitting that he will travel by rail – as he did many times to Washington, D.C. – one last time.

“I first met Sen. Lautenberg after I became state legislative director in 1996. We discussed Amtrak, mass transit (New Jersey Transit), labor issues and more. He couldn’t have been nicer. I let him know that I had, as a Conrail employee, worked Amtrak trains between New York City and Washington, D.C.. As our meeting was coming to a close, he asked about working in the engines of those trains. I watched him transform from the U.S. senator from New Jersey to another man mesmerized by trains. He turned to his aides with him and said ‘you really have to experience this, being on the head-end of a train at 110 mph.’ Our members, especially those in passenger service, owe him a great debt for his fights to secure funding for the survival of Amtrak, to allow commuter rail to grow and for being a reliable supporter of the working men and women of this country. 

“Thanks to him, our members at Amtrak and New Jersey Transit have better infrastructure, locomotives, rail cars, and improved stations. Because of that, they have a more secure employment.

“He was one of the cosponsors of the Railroad Retirement Reform legislation that has made our pension system more secure for our active and retired members. He had been one of the prime movers behind the ARC tunnel before the project was cancelled. He was working to insure that Amtrak’s Gateway Project would go forward, adding another rail tunnel under the Hudson River along with a new Amtrak station in New York City. That will allow more trains into and out of New York City and that will mean more jobs.

“I mention these things for two reasons. One, because in most of the articles that have been written about him and his accomplishments, these either get a quick mention or no mention at all. Second, many Americans are disgusted by our politics these days and after reading the news, one can understand why. But, when you see what one man – Sen. Lautenberg – accomplished after serving in World War II and using the GI Bill after the war to found a company that employs more than 55,000 people, he should be respected.

“In some 30 years as our senator, he never forgot his roots as a poor kid from Paterson whose father died when he was young. He cared about working people and people that needed a hand up. He made our country a better place and that should be what politicians aspire to today.”