WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several lawmakers are looking to honor former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, who died unexpectedly May 3 in Maryland.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Rick Nolan along with Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Michele Bachmann, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz have introduced a bipartisan bill to rename the Chisholm Post Office and portions of Highways 35 and 61 in memory of Oberstar.
Klobuchar introduced the legislation in the Senate and Nolan introduced the bill in the House.
Oberstar, who was born in Chisholm, championed support for Minnesota highways and successfully pushed for the National Scenic Byways Program. The lawmakers have also introduced a bill to rename the U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters after Oberstar, who was the former chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“During his decades of service on the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Oberstar literally changed the landscape of Minnesota and the country,” said Klobuchar in a release. “His fingerprints can be found on countless roads and bridges in Minnesota and across the country, but it’s only fitting that his work be memorialized in northern Minnesota — the place he called home.”
“Rep. Oberstar’s legacy will be in the ports and runways and dams and highways and bridges and water systems throughout our country,” he stated in the release. “Jim was a man of the world, but his home was Chisholm and it would be fitting to memorialize these important landmarks with the Oberstar name.”
Nolan also weighed in.
“Jim Oberstar took the values he learned in Chisholm — how people in small towns work together to get things done — and used them to guide the expansion of our nation’s interstate highway system through decades marked by gas shortages, price spikes and budget challenges,” he stated in the release. “He championed the National Scenic Byways Program out of deep respect and appreciation for the scenic wonders we have here in Minnesota and across the country. Jim was a remarkable product of our remarkable state, so deserving of these honors.”
The bills introduced by the lawmakers would rename the Chisholm post office the “James L. Oberstar Memorial Post Office Building.” It would also rename Highway 35 from milepost 133 in Forest Lake, Minn., to milepost 259 in Duluth the “James L. Oberstar Memorial Highway” and Highway 61 from milepost 0 in Duluth to milepost 150 in Grand Portage the “James L. Oberstar National Scenic Byway.”
Oberstar was a driving force behind the creation of the National Scenic Byways Program. In 1989, he successfully pushed for a byways study by the Federal Highway Administration.
Two years later, then-President George H.W. Bush signed the National Scenic Byways Program into law. Oberstar was chair of the House Transportation Committee during the establishment of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway in 1998.
Members of the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority (CHAA) also mentioned naming the new Range Regional Airport (RRA) terminal after Oberstar at a meeting in May. There have been no further developments on it yet.