Most popular Codcast of 2021 is surprise

CommonWealth’s most popular Codcast of 2021 was recorded in 2018.

The interview was with Fred Salvucci, the former secretary of transportation, who made the bold statement that the proposed West Station commuter rail stop was needed then to deal with existing congestion on the Massachusetts Turnpike and in Kenmore Square — not future congestion caused by Harvard University’s creation of a new neighborhood in Allston.

West Station is no closer to actual construction 3½ years later, but the debate about when it should be built has quieted. In 2018, the Baker administration insisted there wouldn’t be enough riders to justify the station until 2040 at the earliest — after Harvard’s plans for the area are fleshed out more. 

Salvucci and other transportation advocates disagreed. “The demand is there. It’s not a theoretical thing. You can count the building permits,” he said on The Codcast. “Those commuters are coming and there’s no space for them on the Turnpike.”

The debate has subsided amid the COVID-induced downturn in traffic and the preoccupation in recent years with another key element of the I-90 Allston project — how to replace a deteriorating elevated section of the Turnpike near Boston University. That issue is now seemingly resolved, which may explain why Salvucci’s 2018 interview continues to attract listeners in 2021.

The wide-ranging interview with Salvucci also contains his tips on how to improve Silver Line service in the Seaport (he favored a tunnel under D Street, which hasn’t been embraced), opposed congestion pricing (which hasn’t gained traction), and said he will never take an Uber or Lyft because the companies don’t provide health care to their drivers and the apps pull passengers away from public transit.

The Salvucci Codcast had the most plays in 2021, according to CommonWealth’s podcast carrier, SoundCloud. Here, in reverse order, are the top 10 Codcasts of 2021 along with links to the audio files and the stories we wrote about them. 

  1. “Mass Reboot Episode 2: Home” July 1, 2021

Our friends at the MassINC Polling Group produced a series of eight podcasts called Mass Reboot that looked at the impact of COVID when we thought we were emerging from under its cloud. The second episode of that series, dealing with the home, came in tenth in popularity. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl. 

  1. “Mass Reboot Episode 8: Government” August 20, 2021

Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Michael Jonas.

  1. “Danielle Allen: A scholar eyeing a run for governor with a firm grounding outside the ivory tower” April 26, 2021

As a scholar of Athenian democracy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen said her academic background would be a plus in a modern-day political campaign. “I’ve always been a practitioner of democracy first, and I’ve been a scholar of democracy to support my work as a practitioner of democracy,” she said on The Codcast prior to formally announcing her candidacy. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Michael Jonas.

  1. “For Ben Downing, politics are personal” February 22, 2021

Ben Downing ran for a state Senate seat at the age of 24 and took office when he was 25. After 10 years in the Legislature and a stint working for clean energy firms, he became the first candidate to formally seek the Democratic nomination for governor. He also became the first to drop out, announcing this morning that he is ending his campaign. In the February conversation, he said his yearning for office could be traced at least partially to the deaths of his father and his brother, events that made him appreciate the support of his community and a desire to give back. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Michael Jonas.

  1. “Sneak peak of this year’s transportation debate” March 8, 2021

The two chairs of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee debate eliminating fares at the MBTA, an issue that has gained significant attention with the election of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Joseph Boncore, who at the time was a state senator from Winthrop, called for a major paradigm shift in transportation, while Rep. William Straus of Mattapoisett questioned whether that shift came with too high a price tag. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl. 

  1. “Baker under fire on climate bill” January 19, 2021
Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature’s climate change bill, prompting a strong reaction from Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington and Bradley Campbell, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Barrett questioned where the governor came up with his estimate that the Senate’s emission reduction target for 2030 would unnecessarily cost Massachusetts residents an extra $6 billion. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl. 

  1. “Tom Croswell, Harvard Pilgrim-Tufts merger architect” February 16, 2021

Tom Croswell, who orchestrated the merger of the state’s second and third largest health insurance companies, predicted the consolidation would pay big dividends for consumers in Massachusetts. But he was far less enthusiastic about other mergers taking place in health care. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.

  1. “Fusion energy nears Kitty Hawk moment” September 27, 2021

Dennis Whyte of MIT and Bob Mumgaard of Commonwealth Fusion Systems describe the technological breakthrough that allowed them to efficiently contain what amounts to an artificial star. “With the advent of this new technology, there is nothing stopping us from building that first demonstration, the Kitty Hawk moment of fusion, when you see net energy from a system for the first time on earth,” said Whyte, the director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.

  1. “Mass Reboot Episode 3: Transportation”

Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Shira Schoenberg. 

  1. “Salvucci takes new tack on West Station” June 11, 2018

Wide-ranging interview with Fred Salvucci, the former secretary of transportation who talks softly but thinks big on transportation. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.

  BRUCE MOHL          



Early action on child removals: A pilot program in Hampden County aims to help families navigate legal and other challenges at the start of any involvement with the Department of Children and Families so the agency never gets to the point of removing a child.

– The one-year pilot is the first of its kind in Massachusetts and one of a handful bubbling up around the country. The idea surfaced after the murder of George Floyd amid concerns about racial disparities in child welfare.

 “The vast majority of the cases with DCF are neglect cases, and many of those are just manifestations of poverty,” said Madeline Weaver Blanchette, the lead attorney on the pilot. “The wonderful thing about this pilot is we can basically harness the existing units that are already within Community Legal Aid…and work with clients to fix those substantive areas, and then hopefully have the result of being able to close their case with DCF.” Read more.

Numbers rising: Massachusetts is closing in on 1 million total cases of COVID-19 and 20,000 deaths. Read more.


Investing in child care: Theresa Jordan, the director of the Children’s Investment Fund, says investments in child care infrastructure can be transformative. Read more.





The Department of Correction loses nearly 200 officers and custodial staff due to Gov. Baker’s COVID vaccine mandate, between terminations and resignations. (MassLive)

The first state trooper was fired for refusing to comply with the state vaccine mandate, according to the union representing State Police officers. (Boston Globe


Mayor Michelle Wu faces pushback from a pregnant Boston police officer over the vaccine requirement for all city workers during a visit to a police station roll call. (Boston Herald

MassHousing, which oversees state affordable housing projects, bars developer Geoff Engler from applying for any more projects alleging that he lied on an application for project approval. Engler has built developments in Manchester and Marblehead. (Salem News)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues new guidance on how long people who test positive or who are exposed to someone who tests positive should isolate. The guidance cuts the isolation time from 10 days to five days for those who test positive and aren’t exhibiting symptoms. For those exposed to someone with the virus, the new recommendation is five days of quarantine for the unvaccinated and none for the vaccinated. There are mask requirements, however. (NPR)

With the rise in COVID cases, indoor mask mandates are returning in many communities. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Tufts Medical Center reports 118 employees out sick with COVID-19, as the National Guard begins helping with hospital staffing. (MassLive)


Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, a Democrat, is taking a “serious look” at running for lieutenant governor. (Salem News)

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell hasn’t returned columnist Jack Spillane’s calls asking if he’s weighing a run for attorney general, which leads Spillane to conclude that he is. Meanwhile, the jockeying for New Bedford City Council president takes on new importance as the winner could land in the mayor’s seat if Mitchell runs for AG and wins. (New Bedford Light

Candidates are starting to line up for an expected special election for Boston’s District 1 City Council seat, with incumbent Lydia Edwards all but certain to win a state Senate seat next month. (Boston Globe)  


Recycling is making a comeback in some New Hampshire towns. (New Hampshire Public Radio)


Police used cellphone data – what many call a tower dump – to identify and track down a suspect in the shooting death of Eric Christensen on December 8. (Cape Cod Times) The constitutionality of tower dumps is currently being challenged before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. (CommonWealth)


The Daily Hampshire Gazette signs its first contract with a union formed three years ago. (Western Mass Politics & Insight) Here’s the Gazette’s report on the new contract.


Edward O. Wilson, the pioneering Harvard biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, dies at 92. (New York Times)