LYNN — Extension of the MBTA’s Blue Line from Revere to Central Square was within reach in the 1970s until Mayor-elect Antonio “Tony” Marino put a stop to it.
That’s how former Transportation Secretary Frederick Salvucci remembers it. The transit czar under former Gov. Michael Dukakis said the mayor-elect held a press conference in 1975 and said, “The feds will not shove an expanded Blue Line down Lynn’s throat. I was just elected and I want to look at it.”
James Smith, Lynn’s state representative at the time, confirmed Salvucci’s memory. The mayor’s opposition, he said, was fueled by Citizens for a Better Lynn, a grassroots organization formed to stop urban renewal in the downtown. The group helped elect Marino during the so-called anti-highway movement, when residents united to fight the state’s plan for an interstate highway system through Boston, Cambridge and Lynn Woods.
“We were close to the finish line, but that was one of the fumbles,” Smith said of Marino’s rejection of the Blue Line. “But I want to give Tony a pass; he later became an advocate for bringing it to Lynn.”
Salvucci talked about the Blue Line on a podcast from CommonWealth Magazine last week.
It’s unfortunate, Salvucci said, because thanks to former Gov. Frank Sargent and then U.S. Rep. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr., the state had $1 billion in federal dollars for the Blue and Red Line extensions, as well as reconstruction of the Orange Line.
“It went from having the moment when all the stars were aligned to being dead,” Salvucci told The Item. “The Blue Line to Lynn was poised to happen, there was lots of support, and then there was a change in mayors and it lost momentum.”
In response to Marino, the Federal Transit Administration said “’We don’t shove $100 million, (the cost to extend the Blue Line from Revere to Lynn back then), down anyone’s throat,’ and the idea was dead,” Salvucci said.
The Red Line extension from Harvard Square to Porter and Davis squares and Alewife was completed in the mid-1980s. In 1987, the Orange Line Southwest Corridor opened from Chinatown to the new Forest Hills Station.
Today, Salvucci, 78, a research associate at MIT, said it was a time when there was a shift from road expansion to transit.
But the 4.3-mile Blue Line from Wonderland to Lynn has not been revisited. Dukakis lost his re-election bid in 1978 to Massachusetts Port Authority Executive Director Edward J. King. When Dukakis returned to office in 1983 the new environmental rules made the Blue Line extension more complicated and it was dropped.
None of the interviewing Republican governors showed much interest in the project and neither did former Gov. Deval Patrick, Salvucci said.
“Gov. Patrick did not move the ball forward,” he said. “He was more excited about the Fall River and New Bedford extension of the commuter rail. He didn’t have any passion for the Blue Line.”
Patrick did not return a call seeking comment.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee, a Blue Line extension advocate who was in high school at the time, said his late father, House Speaker Thomas W. McGee, was a big booster of the project.
“I still think it’s the key to revitalizing the downtown,” he said.