BOSTON, NOV. 10, 2014… Former Gov. Michael Dukakis is working with his successor to promote a long-stalled rail project that could cut through, and under, the heart of Boston.
Dukakis told reporters Monday that he and former Gov. William Weld are teaming to push the North South Rail Link project which would connect the city’s two major rail stations and plug a gap in the Northeast rail corridor.
“Weld just happens to be a guy who feels very strongly about this project and was very frustrated that he wasn’t able to get moving on it,” Dukakis said.
The former three-term governor’s remarks came at the renaming ceremony for South Station, which is now known as the Michael S. Dukakis South Station Transportation Center. The station’s renaming was included in a transportation bond bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
“I’m not a big fan of naming buildings for politicians but it was all done very secretly. Nobody told me about it until suddenly this bill emerges, the transportation bond, it’s got this provision and Weld was part of that,” Dukakis said.
Even though the building now bears his name, the former governor does not have any expectation that it will catch on. “I don’t think anybody will stop calling this South Station, quite frankly,” he said. “How many different names have we had for the Boston Garden? It’s still the Boston Garden, isn’t it?”
Dukakis does not support plans being advanced by the Patrick administration to expand South Station to allow for more rail lines. State officials say the expansion will ease traffic during peak periods and is needed to expand rail service to the South Coast.
Dukakis has long supported the plan to connect North and South stations via an underground rail link, which he said would alleviate the congestion at both terminals.
“There’s no sense in spending a billion dollars in an expanded South Station when you won’t need it. You connect the two stations and the congestion disappears,” Dukakis said, adding that the plan to use land currently occupied by the U.S. Postal Service to build a bigger train station along the Fort Point Channel is “absolutely not” necessary.
During opening remarks to the around 50 onlookers gathered at South Station’s main terminal, Patrick reflected on Dukakis’ accomplishments in transportation, including shifting the Orange Line’s southern route and expanding service to Malden.
“Make no mistake about it, this building would have been torn down a long time ago if it weren’t for Mike Dukakis,” Frederick Salvucci, Dukakis’ former transportation secretary, said at the event while discussing the Brookline Democrat’s efforts to preserve the station amid discussion of city redevelopment ideas.
Dukakis told the News Service last year that around 140 members of the Legislature have either signed or co-signed an October 2012 letter in support of the rail link project. Dukakis disputed an $8 billion cost estimate for the North South Rail Link project and thinks it could be done for as little as $2 billion.
Transportation Secretary Frank DePaola said his department has not yet taken any action on the provision in the bond law to update the environmental impact report for the North South rail link project.
“We haven’t initiated the study yet. Especially with the way the [gas tax] referendum went, we have to go back and reevaluate a lot of things in the bond bill,” DePaola said.
Asked whether the project should be considered an issue for the next administration, DePaola was forethoughtful.
“Actually, I think something like that would probably be several administrations into the future,” he said.
Copyright 2014 State House News Service