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All Things Travel: Former Transportation Secretaries Gather To Discuss Past & Future

By Bob Weiss, All Things Travel
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(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

BOSTON (CBS) – The Secretaries’ Reunion held on Friday was a lesson in transportation.

Nine former Massachusetts Secretaries of Transportation were on the same stage and the same panel to discuss trends as part of a day-long meeting in Boston, sponsored by The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and MassDOT.

The panel was scheduled to last from noon to 1 p.m. It ran over its allotted time by 30 minutes and the 100 plus attendees would have been happy to listen to that group for the rest of the afternoon.

The moderator was Fred Salvucci who held the post in the early 80’s. The tenure of the group of secretaries appeared to be a little over two years.

Current MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey arrived and left after about 30 minutes and did not speak. He was called to a meeting with Governor Deval Patrick
and did not return.

Other than the Governor, the panel agreed that the job of Secretary of Transportation is the most visible and important high level job in the Commonwealth.

“Transportation is the lifeline of the economy,” said former secretary Kevin Sullivan.

Salvucci reminded the crowd that in his tenure, traffic information consisted of “WBZ’s Joe Green and his flying machine.”

Today real time information is available all over Greater Boston with electronic road signs, a 511 telephone and the Highway Operations Center in South Boston. Mobile phones are the key.

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

The Federal Highway Administration analysis shows that two thirds of delays on U.S. highways are caused by bottlenecks and traffic accidents.

Looking back at the last three decades, the Secretaries concluded that Massachusetts had done a pretty good job in developing its transportation network.
They pointed to the depression of the Central Artery and Ted Williams Tunnel, the Zakim Bridge, the Silver Line, electronic tolling and the Design-Build concept as positive accomplishments.

Looking ahead the group said that new funding was necessary because the gas tax revenue is declining, as vehicles become more fuel efficient. User fees are the answer. They also called for more point-to-point bus routes as needed. Another urgent matter is the relocation of the Post Office and expansion of South Station and commuter rail.

Salvucci made an important point in his closing remarks.

The MBTA Red Line is at capacity. If transportation is not improved between Kendall Square and South Station, new industries will leave Cambridge and Boston’s Innovation District.

“They won’t move to Pittsfield, they will move to California,” concluded Salvucci.

Bob Weiss’s All Things Travel Reports Can Be Heard on WBZ News Radio 1030.

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