Aloisi: the Ghost of Big Dig Past

(Welcome Senator Hedlund – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

In the most puzzling move yet that I have seen two years into the Patrick Administration tenure, the governor appears poised to name former Mass. Turnpike Authority counsel James Aloisi as his new Secretary of Transportation.

While Aloisi has a lengthy institutional memory of many aspects of our state transportation agencies, so do I. And knowing the past roles Aloisi has played in shaping our current state transportation policy, I have some grave concerns. For as Christy Mihos put it back in January 2007: “I don’t know anybody who would be more a part of the Big Dig culture than Jim Aloisi. Jim Aloisi is the Big Dig personified.”

If it happens, the appointment of Aloisi as Transportation secretary will be seen, in my view, as little more than Boston’s version of “pay to play.” Since 2002, Aloisi has donated more than $42,000 to Bay State politicians, including several thousands of dollars to top legislative leaders. Interestingly, Aloisi believes in hedging his bets. Which is why he has made campaign contributions not just to Deval Patrick and Tim Murray, but also Chris Gabrieli, Tom Reilly, Tom Birmingham, AND Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey.  

Maybe it was just by coincidence that Aloisi then found himself named to the Massport Board of Directors, and serving on the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission. The latter appointment, however, did make some sense. After all, who better to investigate problems in the state transportation system than the guy who helped create many of them?

Aloisi started his career by helping Dukakis extend the life of the Turnpike Authority through a questionable bond issue in 1990. In 1997, he wrote the Big Dig financing bill that tied the payment of the project’s bonds to future toll hikes. It’s because of this bill that motorists may now face having to pay $7 to use a harbor tunnel.

Jim Kerasiotes, who served as Aloisi’s boss as both Transportation Secretary and later as Mass. Turnpike Chairman, misled legislators, taxpayers and bond underwriters for years into believing that the Big Dig was on time and on budget at $8 billion. Bechtel, meanwhile, had told state officials as far back as 1994 that they saw the project costing $14 billion. The question has also been, what did Aloisi know and when did he know it. What we do know, is that Aloisi was among those singled out by former state Inspector General Robert Cerasoli for covering up at least $1.4 billion overruns in Dec. 1999 – an incident that drew the attention of the SEC.

Later, as an attorney for Goulston & Storrs, Aloisi racked-up $3 million in fees as outside bond counsel for the project – a gravy train that ended in 2001 when he was fired by the Turnpike board for being unable to justify more than $800,000 in legal billings.    

Gov. Patrick was elected partly on a promise to end the Big Dig culture here on Beacon Hill. Hiring the guy who, arguably, personifies the Big Dig culture,as your transportation secretary is not going to inspire confidence in the voters, especially at a time when a gas tax hike may be the centerpiece of your transportation reform package.

This is a crucial time for our state transportation agencies. Risky financial schemes and growing Big Dig debt is forcing the Mass. Turnpike Authority to consider massive toll hikes. The MBTA is about to break under its $8 billion debt load. And our roads and bridges still need billion of dollars of work. What we need working to solve these problems is a reformer, not a ghost of Big Dig past.

Please call Gov. Patrick’s office immediately at 617-725-4005 and tell him that he can and must do better than James Aloisi.  

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