No serious attempt at transforming the way we deliver transportation services in the Commonwealth could be attempted without a real understanding of the long arc of Massachusetts transportation history –
particularly since the end of the second World War. Yesterday, some of our history came to 10 Park Plaza for lunch with me and the MTA's Director of Human Resources, Joan Makie.
In this case, the history was John Driscoll. John was appointed the second Chairman of the Turnpike Authority in 1964 by Governor Endicott Peabody to replace William F. Callahan who died that year. He was at that time the Commonwealth's 38 year-old Treasurer and a former three-term State Representative from Dorchester. He served as Chairman until 1987, having served under five Governors – Peabody, Volpe, Sargent, Dukakis (two times), and King. Along the way, he built this organization. In my remarks to the MTA Board at its last Board meeting last week, I noted that while some are happy to see it go on November 1, many of our workers and other observers are sad to see John Driscoll's Turnpike Authority go away.
John is now a very vibrant and healthy 84 year old. We first took care of the conversion of his health care benefits to the Group Insurance Commission – he is after all, an MTA retiree. We followed that with a greeting to some of the staff and then had a longer conversation about his career. He told and Joan and me that he keeps current on transportation and other local issues, and that he wishes us luck with
MassDOT. He talked about Ted Kennedy's role in his appointment as Chairman, his breakfast with Sonny McDonough who then controlled the Governor's Council just prior to his confirmation, and about how proud he was to bring on some many quality workers to the enterprise. We talked about the mood in transportation in the early 1960's when both Callahan and the State Highway Commissioner DiNatale were under Federal investigation, and how he admired John Volpe. He told us that he was particularly proud of his role in getting both the United States Congress and the Commonwealth's legislature to create the MTA's retirement system, of his role in the creation of Copley Place, and of the fact that Turnpike workers plowed out large parts of eastern Massachusetts following the Blizzard of '78.
As he left he told us to keep plowing the Turnpike to the same excellent standards to which our customers have grown accustomed. Good advice, particularly when it reinforces two central goals of MassDOT – to focus on service and to bring the best of what each of our highway organizations does best to all of our roads. It's time we got on with doing so.
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