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Transportation industry leaders are expressing gratitude for the work of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died yesterday of viral pneumonia at the age of 89.The last remaining World War II veteran serving in the U.S. Senate, Lautenberg is being described by industry officials as a champion of public transportation and intercity passenger rail. When Lautenberg announced in February that he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate, he set out an agenda for the last two years of his term that included providing federal resources for New Jersey to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy.In 1994, he received the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) National Distinguished Service Award for his work on public transportation legislation. "Public transit and passenger rail has not had a stronger champion in Congress over the past 30 years," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a prepared statement.In 1988 and again in 2000, he received the Golden Spike Award from the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), which recognized his "consistent leadership" in fighting for passenger rail not just in New Jersey, but across the United States. He was the only person to receive the award twice."Lautenberg's crowning achievement was his introduction with [Sen.] Trent Lott (R-Miss.) of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008," NARP officials said in a prepared statement. "PRIIA, widely regarded as the largest bipartisan commitment to passenger-rail funding in Amtrak's history, has provided a framework for federal investment in the Northeast Corridor, acquisition of sorely needed new equipment for the NEC and the national network and improvements in overall service quality."Other industry statements mourning Lautenberg's passing included:From Amtrak:"His instrumental leadership through the years provided for the development of numerous key rail transportation projects including electrifying the Boston segment of the Northeast Corridor making Acela Express high-speed service possible. He also led the proposed Gateway program to provide increased rail, bridge, tunnel and station capacity for intercity and commuter-rail service between Newark, N.J., and Penn Station New York."From Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger: "His dedication to protecting the environment and public health was also evident in his advocacy on key transportation issues. For example, he supported legislative and regulatory initiatives that ensure private freight rail investments continue to help spur rail-intermodal growth, taking trucks off our nation's already overburdened highways and lowering the nation's greenhouse gas emissions." From Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Edward Wytkind:"Whether leading the charge to enhance transportation safety and security, secure funding for necessary transportation investments or defend basic collective bargaining rights on the Senate floor, transportation workers knew they had a friend in Frank Lautenberg."From the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director Bud Wright: "Sen. Lautenberg helped to pass landmark transportation legislation throughout his career to improve the health and safety of the traveling public, and his tireless work on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and Environment and Public Works committees will be missed."From Reconnecting America President and Chief Executive Officer John Robert Smith:"Whenever in Sen. Lautenberg's presence, he always engaged me about the continued importance of rail service in the South. It pleased me that Frank Lautenberg acknowledged that region's connectivity as being of value to the nation as a whole."