I asked Dukakis, What would it take for us to have a rail system that you would consider to be adequate? “One week in Iraq”, Dukakis answered instantly.
“3 billion dollars a year … I'll take 125 miles an hour anywhere in the country, between cities. And by the way, there's not a region in the country that doesn't want this.”
David asked about the conflict of freight trains and passenger trains running on the same rails — usually with the freights having priority. Dukakis says, “I would argue that separating the freight and the passenger trains would be better for the freights.And they would welcome it, believe me … This is a no-brainer.”
I loved it yesterday when Amtrak was mentioned at least six times when Barack announced his selection of Biden.”
I asked him about the possibility of a SUPERTRAIN in the northeast, something that would beat out Acela. Dukakis wants to concentrate on what we have: “The only thing between three hours between Boston to New York, which would effectively eliminate air transportation, is improving that overhead catenary system between New Haven and New York.” What kind of investment is that? “Relatively modest. A couple hundred million dollars.” He thinks we could fairly easily get the New York-Washington trip down to 2.5 hours. He thinks 125 mph is the standard we should try to achieve with Amtrak expansion: “Talk to those states in the Midwest … They'd love 125 miles per hour.”
Finally I asked Dukakis what advice he would give the current administration for how to clean up the MBTA. Is it a financial problem? A management problem? “It's both … Expecting the MBTA to survive on a penny off the sales tax a year was just a great mistake … When I was governor, capital investment in the MBTA was the responsibility of the state government”, just like highways.
But there's a massive problem with construction management, says Dukakis. “It's a legacy of sixteen years of Republican governors who just didn't give a damn.” He bemoans the MBTA's inability to bring in a project on time and under budget, as with Kenmore Square and Arlington Street stations. “Is anybody working at Arlington? Because I don't see it.” He waxes nostalgic for his Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci and his old construction manager (Frank Kettle?), who brought major projects like the Red Line extension in on time and on budget, without major construction leaks.
Thanks to the governor for giving of his time. Dukakis gives reasonably high marks to the current administration for trying to turn it all around; let's hope his faith in the current administration's managerial abilities is justified.