James L. "Jim" Oberstar (D-MN), former chairman of the House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure committee, who retired in 2010 after losing his rre-election bid, died yesterday at his home in Potomac, MD. He was 79.

Long known for his many efforts to improve commercial truck safety as well as his oversight of critical multi-year surface transportation reauthorization legislation, Oberstar was also considered back in 2008 for the job as Transportation Secretary by the Obama administration, though in the end that plum cabinet position wen to Ray LaHood.

Several industry groups – notably the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters – put out statements of condolences regarding Oberstar’s sudden death.

"As a stalwart champion of America's roadway safety infrastructure, the nation has lost an ardent transportation leader, advocate and friend,” noted ATSSA President and CEO Roger Wentz. "Our association – its staff and its members – sadly mourns the passing of Chairman Oberstar. We will truly miss his leadership on transportation and roadway safety issues and his friendship. ATSSA's thoughts and prayers are with Jim's wife Jean and the entire Oberstar family during this most difficult time.”

"Jim Oberstar worked tirelessly during his 36 years in the House for America's workers," added Teamsters General President James Hoffa. "His work on transportation safety was unparalleled, standing up for all transportation workers – rail, airline and trucking – and all those who use the nation's highways. His decades in Congress were ones of great purpose and I extend my condolences to Jim's family and all those touched by his passing."