Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

Robert A. Roe, Champion of Public Works Projects, Dies at 90

Former Rep. Robert A. Roe, D-N.J., who once said his congressional career included public works “from the sewers to the stars,” died Tuesday, according to the Bergen Record. Roe rose to the chairmanship of what was then known as the Public Works and Transportation Committee in 1991 before retiring after the 1992 election.

“When Bob was chairman of the committee, we passed some of the more meaty transportation bills to carry out what was started by former President Eisenhower,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., told the newspaper.

The “sewers to the stars” quote comes from the 1992 edition of CQ’s Politics in America, which also explained Roe’s rise to the Transportation chairmanship this way:

When Public Works Chairman Glenn M. Anderson was felled in a coup by younger committee members, Roe — the second-ranking Democrat — managed to cash in enough chits to hold off a bid by Norman Y. Mineta to buck the seniority system. “Everybody I looked at [for support], I think, either had a bridge or a highway or a railroad or something we worked with them on,” said Roe.

Roe used the gavel to steer legislation that “would set the nation’s transportation policy in the wake of completion of the Interstate highway system,” according to the book. Mineta, of course, went on to become Transportation secretary under President George W. Bush.

Roe had been chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee before taking the Transportation gavel, a job that included leading the 1986 investigation of the space shuttle Challenger explosion.

  • LZ126

    Mineta actually succeeded Roe as House T&I chairman in 1993, losing the gavel a scant two years later when the GOP took over the House.

  • Cam

    Since science traces today’s events to yesterday, it can lead to the notion that our actions are not of our own control or responsibility.

  • The Roadster

    People are likely to remain unsatisfied with a vast civilization that neither satisfies our instincts nor appears to have predictable order.

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