It’s easy to forget just how bad Dorchester’s MBTA stations were back in the 1990s. And it’s easier still to forget that the governor who finally cleared the way for a massive influx of state dollars to fix our now-modern Red Line stations was a Republican. Paul Cellucci, who died on Saturday at age 65 after battling ALS for the last few years, was a key figure in the restoration of our transit system locally; it was one of his many notable achievements in a long career of public service.
On a rainy September morning in 2000, Cellucci visited Fields Corner with Kevin Sullivan, his transportation secretary, and one of those oversized fake checks that was made out to “Dorchester Red Line Stations.” The amount was $66 million – the long-awaited initial funding needed to start work on new stations at Savin Hill, Shawmut, Fields Corner, and Ashmont.
“These mass transit stations are desperately in need of renovations and reconstruction and that’s exactly what this project will do,” Cellucci told the Reporter that day. “We understand that this is a critical lifeline for the people in the neighborhood.”
Sure, Dorchester had a major league ally in then-Speaker of the House Tom Finneran, who certainly played a pivotal role in pushing the Red Line cause. And Cellucci’s administration was under intense pressure to do the right thing by well-organized Dorchester activists who had launched a successful multi-year campaign to convince state officials to fund the project.
But as then-State Senator Stephen Lynch, noted on that day in Fields Corner: “Let there be no mistake. If it were not for the priority that was set by Governor Cellucci, this would not be happening. I know that the Senate is made up by a majority of Democrats, as is the House – but shame on us if we don’t give credit where credit is due. Today, and for a long time, Governor Paul Cellucci has been doing the right thing for transit and the older neighborhoods in the city of Boston. He deserves a lot of credit today.”
A moderate Republican of a different era, he was less consumed with the partisan warfare that seems far more pronounced in our own time. He pursued a “fix-it-first” policy to governing and found willing allies in the Legislature with the likes of Tom Finneran in leadership. He enjoyed strong support at election time in large sections of the city.
Cellucci will be fondly remembered here in our community. People can pay their last respects to the late governor on Thursday at the State House, where he will lie in state in the Hall of Flags from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. His funeral will take place in his native Hudson on Friday.