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Massachusetts Turnpike Executive Director Alan LeBovidge abruptly resigned Wednesday. He served as director since 2007.
The move comes a month after LeBovidge drew heavy criticism for a pair of cost-cutting decisions that were later undercut by both Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi.
LeBovidge touched off a firestorm after shutting off the blue lights on the Zakim Bridge, one of the Boston's signature spans, to save the $5,000 monthly electricity bill. He was also criticized for massive traffic backups on Easter Sunday after his decision not to use overtime to replace tolltakers who called in sick for the holiday.
In his sharply-worded resignation letter, LeBovidge wrote that Patrick's direct words to him were "reform before revenue," and that the governor realized it was unlikely the Turnpike could cost-cut its way out of "the financial quagmire that is called the Big Dig."
LeBovidge wrote, "I've devoted the past seventeen months to following this charge. However, the last two months have made it clear to me that the basic operating premise has shifted."
Transportation Secretary James Aloisi said he was surprised by the resignation. He said LeBovidge was not pushed out of the job. "Public service jobs like these are frankly often thankless," Aloisi said. "I think Alan did rise to the occasion, and we thank him for that and move on."
Aloisi said he will recommend Undersecretary Jeff Mullan to the post of acting executive director of the Turnpike.
Patrick and Aloisi initially backed LeBovidge following the Easter traffic backups and Zakim Bridge controversies. But state Republicans called for his resignation. Patrick and Aloisi announced a series of steps to prevent future holiday backups. They also reilluminated the Zakim lights with donated money, while asking LeBovidge to develop a long-term solution.
The Turnpike faces $2.2 billion in long-term debts from inheriting the Big Dig construction project. It also has an operating deficit this year.
Citing the need to stabilize the authority's finances, the Turnpike board voted in November to raise the cash toll to $2 at booths in the Boston area, and to $7 at harbor tunnels.
Political backlash pushed forward major transportation reform measures on Beacon Hill. The House and Senate proposed separate legislation that would abolish the Turnpike and fold its operations into a new transportation superagency. Gov. Patrick had already filed his own transportation reform legislation.
Legislators agreed, however, that reforms alone would not adequately cover the Turnpike's financial needs. Gov. Patrick has proposed a 19-cent boost to the state gas tax. That plan has since been eclipsed by calls from House leadership for a sales tax increase, part of which would be funneled to transportation funding.
LeBovidge said his own approach at the Turnpike was financial, not political. "From my perspective, everything must pass a cost-benefit test," he wrote in his resignation letter. "Given today's circumstances, I cannot in good conscience say to the members of the board, or more importantly our tollpayers, that my daily contribution to this mandate is cost justified when measured against my compensation," he wrote.
LeBovidge donated his $160,000 salary to charity.
Aloisi issued a statement thanking LeBovidge for his service.
"As everyone knows, transportation reforms proposals from the governor, Senate and House all include the elimination of the Turnpike Authority," Aloisi wrote. "Going forward, our mandate from Governor Patrick is to change the status quo and bring meaningful reforms to our transportation agencies to make them more accountable, transparent and responsive to the needs of residents."
LeBovidge became wealthy as an accountant, before turning in his later years to public service. He served as revenue commissioner for former Gov. Mitt Romney before being fired by Patrick in June 2007.
Five months later, Patrick tapped LeBovidge to serve as executive director of the Pike.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read LeBovidge's resignation letter (PDF).
Read Transportation Secretary Aloisi's response (PDF).
This program aired on May 6, 2009.
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