Baker cautious on North-South rail link
Governor doesn't buy key claim of Dukakis, Weld
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER told two of his predecessors on Wednesday that he and his staff would explore a proposed rail link between North and South Stations, but he appeared to reject one of their central arguments.
Former governors Michael Dukakis and Bill Weld say the state has to deal with severe congestion at North and South Stations and must soon choose between building the rail link or expanding the two stations to accommodate more trains. The two former governors say the rail link is the best option because it would provide a long-term solution to congestion and allow the commuter rail system to operate more like a subway system with its north and south lines connected. Dukakis after the meeting said expanding South Station would only temporarily solve the congestion problem. He called building the North-South rail link “a no-brainer.”
Baker, however, rejected the notion that the two projects are mutually exclusive and indicated he favored the South Station expansion because development initiatives associated with the project would yield enough money to pay for it. He said Weld and Dukakis had told him the North-South rail link may cost somewhere between $2 billion and $4 billion.
Dukakis, a professor at Northeastern University, and Weld, a lawyer-lobbyist, met with Baker in his suite of offices at the State House. Afterwards, Baker spoke to the press, followed by Dukakis. Weld left without talking to reporters.
Weld and Dukakis urged Baker to release $2 million set aside in a bond bill to study the North-South rail link, but the governor declined to say whether he would do it.
Asked if it made sense to explore such a major transit project given the T’s many operating problems, including significant cost overruns with the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, Baker said his administration’s top priority is fixing the T. But, in the larger context of economic development and regional planning, Baker said, “this is certainly something’s that’s worth considering.”
The North-South rail link would not only connect the commuter rail lines north and south of the city but build underground stations in Boston that would allow passengers to get off one train and board another heading in a different direction. Dukakis said such a system would open the door to much greater regional development by allowing people to connect to jobs more easily.Dukakis said tunnel-boring technology is well established and reassured everyone that “this is not the Big Dig, folks.” He rattled off projects around the country and the world, including the Red Line extension to Alewife, that have made use of the technology.
After Dukakis answered questions from reporters, he walked out of the State House and headed down to Park Street Station to catch a train to Northeastern, where he said he was teaching a class on the 1960s.