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Michael Dukakis rode around in a rusty Hudson to drum up support for the North-South Rail Link

Former Governor Michael Dukakis stands in front of a 1949 Hudson he rode around in Friday in support of a North-South Rail Link.Dan McNichol

Former governor Michael Dukakis is usually spotted around town picking up trash.

But this week, he was driving in it.

The king of the turkey carcass and fierce advocate of public transportation took the back seat in a dinged-up and rusted 1949 Hudson on Friday, traveling around the state in a symbolic gesture to drum up support for the construction of the North-South Rail Link.

“We’ve had an interesting day,” Dukakis said in a telephone interview, while making a pit stop on his way to Lowell. “It’s in remarkably good shape, I’ve got to tell you, for a vehicle that was made in 1949.”


The state is considering the North-South Rail Link, which would build a tunnel between North and South stations to let trains travel through Boston, as one part of a broader study of commuter-rail improvements.

But earlier this year, officials estimated the tunneling project could cost $12 billion, and possibly much more. In a debate during his reelection campaign, Governor Charlie Baker said he wasn’t convinced the rail link would be the best way to improve regional transportation.

Dukakis and other rail link supporters have argued that the state’s estimate is flawed, however.

Dukakis, who served three terms as Massachusetts governor and was the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, said he hoped the road trip would send a message to lawmakers that building the North-South Rail Link could help ease congestion on the roadways and improve the lives of commuters who rely on public transit to get around.

“We’ve got to get the folks in the State House to start getting serious about this,” he said, “and connecting these two stations is absolutely critical.”

The car Dukakis was riding in Friday is owned by Dan McNichol, a member of the North-South Rail Link Working Group.


McNichol said the reason the group chose to travel in the decrepit vehicle was because of its age; it’s “as outdated” and “as rusty” as parts of the public transit system, he said.

“It’s basically saying we need to invest” in transportation, McNichol said. “We need to build this tunnel. . . . I’m a big believer in the rail is the future.”

In a press release about the road trip , which took McNichol, Dukakis, former state representative John Businger, and several others from Mattapan, to the Seaport District, and then to Lowell, McNichol called the 1949 vehicle a “rolling metaphor.”

“It’s antiquated, like the current MBTA system,” he wrote. “Citizen commuters suffer with larger systemic handicaps every day on an MBTA system that has not kept up with the times.”

McNichol, who purchased the car two years ago with Dr. Per Christiansen, said to hammer home his point, he made a “T” logo out of black and white industrial tape, and plastered it to the side of the car.

“I’m waiting for the T to send me a cease-and-desist letter,” he joked.

Friday’s auto tour won’t be the last word from Dukakis on the issue of the rail link — or transportation in general.

Dukakis plans to deliver remarks about the rail link at a meeting of the transportation department’s governing board Monday. He said he is also scheduled to meet with legislative leadership soon.


Besides advocating for the North-South Rail Link, the former governor is also championing a “first-class statewide regional rail system,” a term that generally refers to higher-frequency service in and out of Boston.

“These projects have got to start moving quickly and aggressively,” Dukakis said. “There has got to be a sense of urgency about this.”

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Adam Vaccaro can be reached at