Former governor and Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis blasted Gov. Charlie Baker on transportation over the weekend, alleging the Republican lacks a sense of urgency.
“It just took me two hours to come from Salem to Boston in a car,” Dukakis said in a televised interview taped in Brighton on Friday that was broadcast Sunday. “This transportation situation is terrible. I don’t see the Baker administration doing much about it.”
The comments came in response to a question from WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller on the race for governor. Baker, who has been called the most popular governor in the country according to several national polls, is seeking a second term. Democratic challengers Robert Massie and Jay Gonzalez have mounted a campaign against him.
In response, Baker said he has authorized $900 million in local transportation funds since taking office, and the MBTA’s Green Line extension and the South Coast rail are on track.
In a recent WBUR poll, voters gave Baker high approval ratings and he maintains a commanding lead over his Democratic challengers.
The survey of 504 voters found that two-thirds of them have a favorable view of the governor, while a majority have not heard of the Gonzalez or Massie.
Dukakis’ favorite candidate, former Newton Mayor Setti Warren, ended his campaign for governor last month. He cited the difficulties in financing a competitive campaign.
In January, Baker established an 18-member commission on the future of transportation in the commonwealth to advise his administration on transit needs and challenges. The panel has been asked to develop a range of scenarios anticipated between 2020 and 2040 and will be used to inform its findings, the governor said. A report is expected in December.
At the time, some lawmakers criticized the commission because none of the five areas to be explored include how to pay for transportation upgrades.
State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said while he was pleased to learn the governor launched the commission, there was no mention of finding cash to pay for transit solutions.
“Transportation is a major driver of our economy and quality of life in Massachusetts,” he said. “Revenue needs to be a key part of the conversation to create a transit system we deserve. I hope water transit is a part of these discussions, too.”
Mayor Thomas M. McGee said the state not only needs a plan to create a 21st century transportation system, but a way to pay for it.
“The reality is we need to spend up to $1.5 billion on transit,” he said. “We need to find the revenue in a fair way that reflects a broad base of transportation needs across the commonwealth.”