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Editorial: Stay the course

Two important mass transit projects for our region are experiencing some rough sledding.

The problems besetting the Purple Line, the Metro subway line planned for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and Baltimore city-Baltimore County’s Red Line project are different in nature.

In the case of the Purple Line, planners have delayed the deadline for submission of proposals from companies that want to partner in the construction of the 16-mile line from New Carrollton to Bethesda. Officials say the delay will have no impact on the overall timetable of the $2.37 billion project, though that seems unrealistically optimistic given residents’ demands for stronger noise and vibration abatement measures.

A major issue regarding the 14.1-mile Red Line is concern on the part of the city and county over how much they are being asked to contribute to the light rail project, which would run from the Bayview MARC to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services offices.

There are also fears that the federal government, whose funding is an essential part of the $2.6 billion Red Line project, may not be eager to support it. And the clumsy way that the state transportation department decided to shift the location of a Harbor East subway station stop to accommodate businessman developer John Paterakis — first reported in the Baltimore Brew — justifiably has raised more than a few eyebrows.

How much local governments and taxpayers fork over for a project is a legitimate issue. The wisdom of rerouting the Red Line is a legitimate issue. Whether the Purple Line has ample noise and vibration abatement measures — yes, that’s worth getting right.

Anyone who lives in the Baltimore-Washington corridor has nightmarish stories about traffic gridlock. We sit in our cars, bumper to bumper, year after year. We have been choking on our automobile exhaust fumes. In 2012, Washington was the most congested metropolitan area in the nation, a place where the average driver that year spent 67 hours and 32 gallons of gas stewing in traffic, according to the Texas A&M Traffic Institute. Baltimoreans could swell with pride in coming in only 15th on the rankings.

The two light rail projects, of course, are not going to magically fix all of this. And for many residents, the projects will have little impact on their day-to-day lives. But the two lines will play a critical part in the overall modernization of the region’s transportation grid — getting cars off the road, providing more environmentally friendly transportation options for tens of thousands of people each day and reducing the time to traverse key commuting routes.

It’s imperative that these projects are designed smartly, constructed efficiently and insulated from the currents of political favoritism.

It’s even more imperative that they get built.