Rail world reacts to death of Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman (updated)

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Joe Boardman, near his home in Rome, N.Y., in 2018.
Bob Johnston

Reactions to the passing of former Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman, who died Thursday at age 70

From Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews:

“Joe Boardman believed in his bones that all Americans should have the ability to choose to travel by train. He was a passionate defender of the National Network, and a passionate believer in Amtrak. He was also very gracious with his time and his insights, always willing to meet with us to hear about the concerns of passengers and always willing to meet with me to talk about rail policy. After retirement, he traveled all the way to Miami to be with us last Fall during our RailNation: Miami national convention in a classic example of the kind of leader he was. We will all miss him very much.”

From Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia and Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson: 

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Boardman.

“Joe, during his tenure as FRA Administrator, Amtrak Board Member, and Amtrak President & CEO, was a tireless advocate for passenger rail and the nation’s mobility. During his eight years at the helm at Amtrak, Joe helped the company make significant progress in reducing our debt, improving our infrastructure and raising our cost recovery performance.

“He leaves a lasting legacy that includes public service and making passenger rail transportation better for millions of people.”

From Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads:

“During his more than 40 years in the industry, Joe Boardman’s work was more than just improving transportation; it was grounded in a mission to bring people together. I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing and would like to extend my sympathies to his wife Joanne and the rest of the Boardman family.”

Retired engineer, author, broadcaster and former Amtrak photographer Doug Riddell, in a post on Facebook:

“Joe and I met for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, 2008--his second day at the throttle of Amtrak. He and his wife, Joanne, were at Washington Union Station, thanking the railroad's employees for working the holiday. … I put off retirement to become Amtrak company photographer with a fourth-floor office not far from his, where often, he'd appear at my door, and we'd go out for breakfast. A man of faith, as well as character, we'd bow our heads for grace. I was a sounding board when he wanted to hear what the average working stiff felt about issues confronting the company. One day he nearly missed a conference call, because he insisted on shaking the hand of every employee at our G Street offices. He did the same on a visit to our shops at Beech Grove, IN, where he literally took hundreds of employees for a tour of the executive business car, Beech Grove, many of them had helped build.

“Although I took hundreds of pictures of Joe during my tenure in the executive suite — including head shots and magazine covers--the most telling was one I snapped of him at the end of a long summer day at Beech Grove, sitting on a step box, his cell phone to his ear, calling home to speak with Joanne. Although he sat with presidents, captains of business and industry, and countless thousands of Amtrak employees and customers, as one of eight children who grew up on a farm near Rome, NY, Joe was a family man.

“God rest your good soul, Joe Boardman.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, N.Y., on his Facebook page:

“Joe Boardman was born in Taberg, N.Y.

“He advanced our passenger rail & transportation infrastructure throughout his life as Amtrak  president and CEO, Federal Railroad Administration administrator, and New York State Department of Transportation commissioner.

“We'll miss you, Joe. My thoughts go to your family.”

Transportation Communication Union Local Lodge 2508, on its Facebook page:

“This is beyond devastating news for those of us who work in the intercity passenger rail industry. Words cannot express what a wonderful, kind, and good spirited human being Joe was and he was, indeed, the consummate railroadman.

“He always had a smile on his face. Always happy to see you. Everyone mattered to him no matter what craft you worked in or how many years of service you had.

“Everybody loved Joe B.”

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, on its Facebook page:

“The National Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen extends its deepest condolences following the passing of Joe Boardman, retired Amtrak President & CEO and former Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.”

From Chuck Baker, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association:

"ASLRRA mourns the passing of an industry leader, Joseph Boardman. Joe was a tireless industry advocate for rail safety and efficiency, whether he was leading Amtrak, the New York DOT, or the Federal Railroad Administration.  He cared deeply about serving the American public, ensuring rail access throughout the nation's heartland. He was that rare individual who cared more about finding a solution to a problem than taking credit for a solution and our industry benefitted greatly from that way of doing business." 

— Updated at 2 p.m. CST with a statement from ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. This article will continue to be updated as reactions become available.

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