The Codcast: Salvucci traces decline of T to Weld administration
Fred Salvucci, one of the state’s most influential transportation officials, traces the decline of the MBTA to the early years of the administration of former governor William Weld.
Salvucci, who served 12 years as secretary of transportation under former governor Michael Dukakis and now teaches at MIT, said support for transit gained momentum after former governor Frank Sargent in the early 1970s brought a halt to new highway construction inside Route 128. Under Dukakis, Salvucci said, transportation officials turned their focus to extending the Red Line to Alewife, expanding the Orange Line, and burying the expressway through downtown, a project that came to be known as the Big Dig.
Throughout the 1980s, according to Salvucci, the MBTA built complicated transit projects and managed the system well. He said the successes were important. “If we had just succeeded in stopping bad things and not succeeded in getting some good things built, the bad things would have just come back,” Salvucci said during a Codcast hosted by Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters.
But the momentum that built up during the 1980s dissipated in the 1990s during the administration of Weld, Salvucci said. Part of the problem was the Big Dig, which sucked up a lot of the state’s money and attention. But Salvucci said the Weld administration had a split personality when it came to transit.
The result was a transit agency that increasingly lacked the competency to execute on big projects and the resources to run the system effectively. Salvucci said the forward funding of the T in 2000, which was intended to get the agency back on track financially, was based on phony numbers. The T was promised a fifth of the revenue from the state’s sales tax, but the resources generated from the funding scheme turned out to be inadequate, prompting the T to borrow more and more money. “It was a totally flawed statute,” Salvucci said.
The deteriorating state of the MBTA was symbolized by the Green Line extension project. Not only was the project long overdue, but the initial design ran more than $1 billion over budget. Many blame poor oversight of the construction and design team as the cause.
Salvucci said the resuscitation of the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford gives him a lot of hope about the T’s future. He said T officials responded by paring back the cost of the project significantly and by installing a seasoned manager, John Dalton, to oversee it. He said he has also been encouraged by the commitment of Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s chief operating officer, to the transit agency.
Resurrecting the Green Line extension not only makes good on a state environmental promise, it also demonstrates the T is getting back on track, Salvucci said. “The Green Line extension is beginning to rebuild that kind of competence at the agency,” he said.
Other highlights from the interview include:
Salvucci said one of the biggest surprises to him has been how transit improvements have the potential to accelerate neighborhood gentrification and displace the very people who the transit improvements were supposed to benefit. He specifically mentioned the replacement of the Hi-Lo grocery store in Jamaica Plain, which catered to the Hispanic community, with a Whole Foods supermarket. “The lower income people who [the transit improvements were] supposed to be for were priced out of those neighborhoods,” he said. “We didn’t see that coming.”
Salvucci likes the idea of regional rail, which would convert a rail system designed to ferry people to and from their jobs in Boston into a system designed to ferry customers all over the region at all times of the day. He thinks regional rail is likely to benefit a community like Lynn, which can’t rely on an extension of the Blue Line to the community. He noted the extension of the Blue Line to Lynn at one point had political momentum behind it until politics in the city itself shifted against the proposal.
A Globe editorial urges the House to stop delaying passage of a distracted-driving bill banning hand-held use of cellphones.
With Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia following through on his promise to get rid of the controversial pay-as-you-throw program, it appears it will result in higher trash collections costs and the loss of $2 million in revenues. (Herald News)
Bodega owner Cesar Checo is praised for bringing healthy foods to Lawrence. (Eagle-Tribune)
Lawyers for President Trump, in a secret memo to special counsel Robert Mueller in January, said the president cannot be forced to testify before a grand jury and hinted he has the power to pardon himself. (New York Times) Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani played down the potential for a pardon, saying it is politically fraught and likely to lead to impeachment. (Washington Post) Herald legal columnist Evan Slavitt says the idea that a president could pardon himself has never been tested — and he hopes it never is.
At the Democratic state convention over the weekend, Josh Zakim won the party’s endorsement over long-time incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, while Jay Gonzalez and Quentin Palfrey got the nod for governor and lieutenant governor. Attorney General Maura Healey accused Gov. Charlie Baker of playing it too safe and failing to articulate a vision. (State House News)
From the wayback machine: This 2000 profile of Galvin in CommonWealth, which is very probably the most in-depth piece ever done on him and includes some great color commentary from two people who know him well, then-House speaker Tom Finneran and normally press-shy Rep. Angelo Scaccia.
Contrary to claims by President Trump, a state commission in New Hampshire reported there was no widespread voter fraud there in the 2016 presidential election. (Boston Globe)
With more high school graduates heading to college and an unemployment rate below 3 percent, companies are struggling to find skilled workers and trainees for jobs that don’t require degrees. (Patriot Ledger)
A Herald editorial decries what it sees as onerous state alcohol regulations under which a Brighton liquor store owner was threatened with sanctions for moving cases of beer to another outlet he owns in Allston that had run out of the suds. (The state let him off with a warning.)
Even after pledging to shut off data sharing with third-party vendors, Facebook has been giving access to personal information to cellphone makers such as Apple and Samsung that allows the companies to get information from hundreds of contacts in each person’s database. (New York Times)
The Apple watch now outsells the entire combined Swiss watch industry, including brands such as Rolex and Swatch. (U.S. News & World Report)
Continuing its war of words with the University of Massachusetts, the Pioneer Institute says the five-campus system has a spending problem. UMass officials say the Pioneer report is “highly misleading.” (CommonWealth)
Worcester schools superintendent Maureen Binienda thinks she has found a way to revive middle school sports. (Telegram & Gazette)
Andover schools superintendent Sheldon Berman has no plans to retire, despite calls for his ouster from parents angry about his criticism of the boys volleyball coach. (Eagle-Tribune)
A Lowell Sun editorial slams Lawrence Academy for barring one of the paper’s reporters from covering graduation, apparently in retaliation for a story last month about a student who was sexually molested by a school groundskeeper in 1993.
Carl Schmid of the AIDS Institute says insurance deductible policies for drugs hurt those most in need. (CommonWealth)
The state’s community hospitals are pushing for higher reimbursements from insurers, arguing they are struggling to stay afloat under current payment schedules. (Boston Globe)
In the largest study ever, researchers find that many women with breast cancer can forego chemotherapy without harming their odds of beating the disease. (Associated Press)
A former Marion resident filed charges more than two years ago with the state Board of Registration of Psychologists that her Natick-based therapist had lured her into having sex during their sessions, a violation of state law and ethics rules of the profession, but the case remains unresolved and the therapist continues to hold an unrestricted license to practice. (Boston Globe)
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss offers a bold fix for the transportation and housing challenges facing eastern Massachusetts. (CommonWealth) It’s interesting to consider the idea in the context of a recent analysis showing that Massachusetts now lags badly in pioneering innovative public policies, an area the state once was a leader in. (Boston Globe)
Jerry Elmer of the Conservation Law Foundation highlights how dramatically the region’s power grid is changing, and notes that a shift toward solar is making additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure unnecessary. (CommonWealth) A Boston Globe editorial, however, is less enamored with solar, saying policymakers need to do more to keep the region’s nuclear power plants running.
Tanya Kalmanovitch of the New England Conservatory links music and climate change. (CommonWealth)
Steven Hoffman, chairman of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, sat down with Keller@Large to talk about the impending start of retail marijuana sales and repeated his warning that there may be no stores open on the July 1 target date because of supply and zoning issues.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno asks why Steward Weldon was not in jail despite his long criminal record. Weldon lived at the home where three bodies were found last week. “When will some of our judges realize that ‘animals’ like this have no respect for life, our courts or GPS devices,.” he said. (MassLive)
Rachelle Cohen, the longtime editor of the Boston Herald editorial page, joined the editorial board of the Boston Globe. (CommonWealth)New research indicates city costs go up when the local newspaper shuts down (CityLab)
PBS is bringing back Firing Line, the longtime civil conversation program hosted by the late William F. Buckley, with Fox News commentator Margaret Hoover as host. (National Review)