Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he was initially "more timid" than he should have been about balancing the need to work on the MBTA with the desire to maintain full service.
Baker's comments on Boston Public Radio came a week after the reopening of the Orange Line, which had been fully shut down for a month to undergo a series of fixes. Orange Line riders have continued to encounter delays as trains run slowly in areas where new track still needs to settle. Baker said some of those slow zones have already been addressed and, in the rest, trains should resume running at "appropriate speed" by the end of the week.
He described transit shutdowns to accommodate repair work as "the price we pay for not doing this for years and decades," and said there is a friction between getting work done and how much disruption to cause for riders.
"I was timid, more timid than I should have been early," Baker said. "I mean, we started doing a lot of this work pretty early, but we were doing a lot of it at night and some of it on weekends. And it was nowhere near as intense as it became the longer I was in office and the more I realized how much needed to get done."
Baker also addressed the arrival on Martha's Vineyard earlier this month of a group of around 50 migrants, but declined to offer any comment on his fellow Republican governor, Florida's Ron DeSantis, who sent them there by chartered plane.
“I’m not running for president, so why engage in what is obviously a presidential debate?" he said.
Most of the group came initially from Venezuela and Baker said some have since left Massachusetts to join family in other states. For the people who are still here, he said the "game plan is to handle this the same way we would for many of the other folks who show up here with varying immigration statuses, which happens every day, and to find them housing if they want to stay here in Massachusetts and to work through the legal issues associated with the process that's attached to applying for asylum."
Baker called for federal immigration reform, and said Republicans and Democrats alike need to compromise to get there.
Baker covered a mix of other topics with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan:
- He said he would "most likely" veto a measure that would allow cities and towns to opt-in to permitting happy hour drink deals if it reaches his desk, saying he doesn't think the benefits of discounted alcohol are worth the potential consquences from people driving home drunk. The language is contained in the Senate's version of an economic development bill that's been idling in the Legislature since formal sessions ended on July 31. One big piece of that bill is a package of tax breaks and reforms, and Baker said he hopes lawmakers get those over the finish line.
- New England governors reached out to the federal government over the summer, Baker said, to ask for help dealing with anticipated spikes in electric bills this winter. He said the state can also put resources into fuel assistance programs "but the feds have a role to play, and I would like to see them exercise it."
- Baker didn't give an answer when Braude asked if he plans to vote for Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic candidate for governor, over Repubilcan candidate Geoff Diehl. "I pretty much said I was going to stay out of statewide politics and the elections this fall, and I meant it," Baker said. He said does plan to vote in November and will "work real hard" for GOP auditor hopeful Anthony Amore, the only statewide candidate Baker has endorsed.
- The governor reiterated his opposition to congestion pricing, a policy that aims to curb traffic by levying tolls at peak periods. He said he prefers the idea of managed lanes, where drivers could pay to use a dedicated lane that would also be available to buses. "From my point of view, that's a better way to go than congestion pricing, which basically hits everybody," Baker said. Managed lanes are used in Maryland, where Baker said they "seem to work pretty well" but the concept has not caught on with lawmakers here.