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Congressman and rail subcommittee leader Payne dies

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.)
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U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) has died, his congressional office announced yesterday. He was 65.

Payne was a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and the top Democrat on, and former chairman of, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. He represented New Jersey's 10th congressional district since 2012.

The congressman was hospitalized after experiencing a physical accident at his home on April 6, according to his office. He died after developing medical complications that led to cardiac arrest.

Payne is survived by his wife, Beatrice, and the couple's three children, according to a statement by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

During his time on the railroads subcommittee, Payne introduced the INVEST in America Act, which became the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to provide funds for critical road and rail projects, such as New Jersey’s Portal North Bridge and Hudson River Tunnel in the Gateway Program, his office staff said in a prepared statement. Due in part to his efforts, the new law included $66 billion for passenger rail, the largest federal investment in rail in 50 years and $55 billion to replace lead water pipes nationwide, they said.

Several government, rail and transportation officials expressed sorrow at Payne's passing. Following are some of their statements:

"We knew him as a leader and champion of efforts to strengthen the rail network, keep all stakeholders in mind, and bring solutions to the table that would benefit all communities served by rail."  — Chuck Baker, president, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

"We are saddened to hear about the passing of Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr., a true champion of Amtrak and passenger rail in New Jersey and around the country. His leadership, including in his position as ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Rail Subcommittee, was essential to helping Amtrak secure the investments needed to improve our infrastructure, stations, trains and service." — Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner

"Donald was a fierce friend and advocate for rail workers, supporting their bid for sick leave, higher wage and improved working conditions. His efforts helped support a historic agreement that would strengthen the safety and quality of life for our essential rail workers. His work to advance rail safety legislation, especially in the wake of the derailment in East Palestine, will remain an important part of his legacy that Congress must continue to realize." — House T&I Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.)

"He most recently led T&I Democrats in our ongoing work to reauthorize the federal pipeline safety programs — a bill we passed out of committee overwhelmingly, thanks in no small part to his efforts. He was also a champion this Congress for a bipartisan effort to improve passenger-rail access for persons with disabilities." — House T&I Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.)


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