South Station, the area’s busiest transit hub, will now be known as the Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station, a change meant to honor the three-term governor who helped save the station from demolition and served as a strong champion for mass transit.
In a ceremony held Monday near the South Station rail terminal, Governor Deval Patrick said the appellation is a fitting tribute to a governor who understood that transportation is about more than just moving people from Point A to Point B.
“Instead, transportation is an economic engine,” Patrick said. “It creates vibrant communities. It creates opportunity, and access to affordable, sustainable transportation has the power to uplift and improve lives.”
The 81-year-old Dukakis, who served as governor from 1975 to 1979 and from 1983 to 1991 said he is typically opposed to naming buildings after politicians but said he was thankful.
“I don’t think anybody will stop calling this South Station, quite frankly,” he told the crowd. “How many different names have we had for the Boston Garden? It’s still the Boston Garden. But I really am grateful.”
But Dukakis doesn’t support a plan being pushed by Patrick to expand the station that now bears the former governor’s name. Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials say that adding more tracks to the busy hub — and expanding the station into the post office’s Fort Point Channel property — would improve rail service by relieving congestion.
Instead, he favors a decades-old proposal to create a North-South rail link to connect North and South stations.
During the ceremony, Dukakis praised Patrick, saying the outgoing governor and former transportation secretary Richard A. Davey had laid out an impressive transportation blueprint that he hopes the incoming governor will follow.
Dukakis’s own dedication to transit projects has not waned since he left office. He recently teamed up with former governor William F. Weld to garner support for a North-South rail link.
Weld was among those who pushed to honor Dukakis with the name change earlier this year. the transportation funding bill.
But Frederick P. Salvucci, the transportation secretary under Dukakis who helped engineer the Big Dig, said naming the station after Dukakis was fitting: Dukakis helped save it from demolition in the 1970s, when the Boston Redevelopment Authority had plans to build an office tower and hotels in the area. Dukakis then helped oversee major renovations at the station before it reopened in 1989.
“This literally would be a parking garage without him,” Salvucci said.
On Monday afternoon, a plaque bearing the former governor’s name had already been affixed outside the transit hub’s main doors. When Dukakis arrived at the ceremony with his wife, Kitty, old friends and colleagues quickly crowded around. MBTA employees and legislators snapped photographs with Dukakis, who was wearing a walking boot due to a recent foot injury.
The tribute was well deserved, said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, who worked as director of communications in the Dukakis administration. He remembered fondly how his boss would come in with stories from his commute on the Green Line.
“Almost every day, he would come in with some new idea from one of the passengers on the Green Line,” he said. “Some of them made sense and many did not, but we had to check on every one.”