In the world of Massachusetts politics, Fred Salvucci is a legendary figure. He's known, among other things, for remaking the Red and Orange Lines--and for launching the massive public-works project know as the Big Dig.

Now, as the push to bring the Olympics to Massachusetts gains momentum, Salvucci is thinking big yet again.

"The Olympics is a little bit like, 'Company’s coming, so we better clean the house,' Salvucci says. "We really should clean the house for ourselves. But the Olympics is a good excuse to say, 'OK, this is a wake-up call.'"

Salvucci says the Olympics could spur a host of desperately needed changes at the T--including new signals, so trains can run up to twice as often, and new power systems that could withstand increased flooding due to climate change. 

What's more, Salvucci says, the T could get bigger, too.

"If you think about the Red Line, years ago, when we extended to Alewife, there was discussion about going all the way to Arlington," Salvucci says. "Let’s renew the discussion. You could get the Red Line out to 128!"

Salvucci also suggests pushing the Blue Line out to Lynn--a project that's been discussed for decades--and launching a new, smaller subway line that would linking the Back Bay to the South End. (That project, he notes, was first proposed in 1920.)

As Salvucci describes it, these wouldn't be mere vanity projects. They'd be construction with a purpose.

"We’re lucky here. We have the potential for growth," Salvucci says of the Greater Boston area. "We’re seeing it in the Innovation District and Kendall and Longwood; there’s groundbreakings all the time.

"It’s not hypothetical—this economy wants to grow. But if we fail to serve it with access, it’ll choke that growth."

MBTA GM Beverly Scott agrees that the Olympics could spark an extreme T makeover. But while she echoes Salvucci's call for new signal and power systems, her broader wish list is a bit different.

"I would look for an absolutely exploded bus network, OK," Scott says. "And not just bus in the traditional sense. I'm talking about a suite of services."

Scott's vision includes new bus lines, new bus lanes, and a radical re-imagining of the way many Boston streets work. On-street parking could be eliminated to make bus pickup and dropoff easier, for example. And pedestrian and bike traffic could be pushed skyward.

"We’re so dense—this is is not like we’re going out on the prairie somewhere," she says. "We almost have, to me, to think in terms of how we build a more vertical city."

But all these ideas come with a significant caveat. If Boston gets the 2024 Games--and that's a huge "if"--the city and region will have a scant seven years to design, launch, and complete any new projects. 

During that time, getting around the Boston area could be a major headache. Still, Salvucci says Boston could pull it off—and he cites the current rebuilding of Longfellow Bridge as proof.

"They’re keeping the Red Line operating," Salvucci says. "They’re rebuilding a bridge that’s over a century old that holds up the Red Line, and a lot of cars and pedestrians and bikes. The Longfellow should kind of give us the confidence that, 'Yeah, this is a big challenge, but we’re capable of doing it.'"

If Boston's push for the 2024 Olympic Games succeeds, a bunch of big improvements to the T could be in store. 

GUEST: Jim Aloisi, the state's former transportation secretary.