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Former AP transportation writer Joan Lowy dies at 66

FILE - Then-veteran Washington journalist and Associated Press transportation reporter Joan Lowy, photographed on Oct. 30, 2006, in Washington, has died. She was 66. Lowy's husband says she died early Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, at her Virginia home after a 10-year battle with abdominal cancer. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joan Lowy, a veteran Washington journalist who spent the final decade of her career covering transportation issues for The Associated Press, has died. She was 66.

Lowy died early Wednesday at her home in Vienna, Virginia, after a 10-year battle with abdominal cancer, said her husband, Michael Christensen.

“She was a heck of a reporter,” Christensen, also a journalist, said Thursday about his wife of 33 years. “She loved journalism. She loved the give-and-take and everything.”

AP colleagues described Lowy as a gifted newshound who taught them without knowing it.

“Joan was a reporter’s reporter: whip smart, an expert on her beat and someone who genuinely loved being in the middle of the news," said Julie Pace, a senior vice president and executive editor, who worked with Lowy in Washington. "It was so fun watching her dig in on a big story and I, and countless others, learned so much from working alongside her.”

Ken Guggenheim, who was Lowy's editor before she went on leave in 2018 to focus on her illness, said she was smart, dogged and no-nonsense.

Lowy joined the AP’s Washington bureau in 2006 and moved to the transportation beat in 2008. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2012.

“She was passionate about transportation issues, recognizing how the fine print in dense bureaucratic documents could have life-or-death implications for American drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” Guggenheim said. “She developed a vast network of sources because all sides in the world of transportation recognized that she was fair and meticulous -– and impossible to spin or deceive.”

Her coverage of the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board went beyond the dry stuff of federal budgets and regulations. Among other issues, Lowy reported on the pitfalls of self-driving cars and every commuter’s dream of cars that could fly above traffic-clogged roadways.

“She brought the transportation beat to life,” added Carole Feldman, another AP Washington news editor who worked with Lowy.

Merrill Hartson, a now-retired AP colleague, said Lowy was talented and versatile, but also aggressive and intense about her reporting.

“She was a collegial presence even in deadline-pressure situations and was supportive of fellow employees” Hartson said in an email.

Justin Harclerode, communications director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, added that he found Lowy to be knowledgeable and open-minded.

“She knew the issues, and she was always willing to hear and consider the viewpoints of the lawmakers that I’ve worked for over the years,” said Harclerode, who has worked for the committee's Republican chairmen or senior GOP member since 1997.

A New Jersey native and graduate of George Washington University, Lowy had been a reporter for now-closed The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and a Washington correspondent for the now-defunct Scripps Howard News Service, for whom she covered the 1991 Gulf War, among other assignments.

Her biography of Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado was published in 2003.

Christensen said he and Lowy met during the 1988 presidential campaign at a watering hole in New Hampshire that was popular with political journalists, candidates, and consultants. While chatting, they learned they had both grown up on the Jersey Shore.

“We both knew Jersey,” he said.

Earlier in her career, Lowy was a regional reporter in Washington for The Rocky Mountain News and Scripps Howard, covering news in the nation’s capital that affected the states she reported for.

“She was one of the good people down here,” said Jonathan Salant, assistant managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who first met Lowy decades ago as a young regional reporter himself.

“There are people you get to know and you’re glad you know them, and she’s one of those people,” Salant added.

Joan Andrea Lowy was born Dec. 16, 1956, in Red Bank, New Jersey. Survivors include her husband and two children, Tessa Nyx and Ross Christensen, both of Richmond, Virginia.

Funeral arrangements were pending.