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Former Gov. Dukakis: N.E. Needs 'True High-Speed Rail'09:30
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An Amtrak train arrives in Portland, Maine, in this 2007 file photo. (AP)
An Amtrak train arrives in Portland, Maine, in this 2007 file photo. (AP)

Sometimes it feels impossible to travel though the Northeast without getting delayed.

Driving from Boston to New York, you'll almost invariably hit traffic. While flying into D.C., there's the hassle of getting through security. Trains often run late.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis thinks that investing in reliable high-speed rail service will do wonders for New England travelers and businesses.

"I hope we can at least get the time from Boston to New York down to, say, three hours," Dukakis said. "That's the end of the shuttle, because at that point nobody is going to take the plane, if you can get from New York to Boston reliably in three hours."

Sen. John Kerry was at Boston's South Station Friday, celebrating the arrival of federal dollars to pay for improvements on the Northeast rail corridor from Boston to Washington. The money will be used to speed up Amtrak’s ostensibly high-speed Acela train, which, though capable of running 150 miles per hour, rarely reaches top speeds on its outdated track.

"These improvements are going to be very important, but it won't buy us what ultimately I hope we're going to have, and that is true high-speed rail that gets you from Boston to New York in 90 minutes and from New York to Washington in 80," Dukakis said. "That's what they have in Europe. That's what they have, increasingly, in Asia."

As Kerry explained, the money for rail improvements is money New England wasn’t even supposed to get.

“When Florida’s Tea Party governor rejected federal money to build high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa, we immediately jumped at the chance and we have won up to $795 million that might have gone to Florida,” Kerry said. “Now it’s going to come to New England and we’re proud to receive it.”

Still, even the many hundreds of millions of dollars New England is expected to receive won't completely modernize the Northeast's rail system. Amtrak needs about $17 billion to do that, Dukakis said.

Though it seems an astronomical figure, it's a question of priorities.

"That's two months in Iraq," Dukakis said. "Can we afford that? I think so."

Guest:

  • Gov. Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts

This segment aired on May 20, 2011.

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