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Tuesday is 'Red Line, Purple Line Day'

Gov. Martin O'Malley is going to bite the bullet on two major transit projects Tuesday with announcements on the state's plans for Baltimore's east-west Red Line and suburban Washington's Purple Line. It appears almost certain he will choose the Red Line alternative known as 4C -- light rail in tunnels under downtown, Harbor East, Fells Point and Cooks Lane but otherwise on the surface.

Whatever he announces, the governor is going to make some people mad. The most likely choices for both projects have both fervent supporters and ardent detractors.

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O'Malley will start his transit tour with a news conference in New Carrollton  at 8:30 a.m., the eastern terminus of the proposed Purple Line to Bethesda. He will follow that with a MARC train ride to West Baltimore, a stop on the proposed Red Line from Woodlawn to Bayview, where he will make a second  announcement  at 10:15 a.m.

For both lines, the choices of mode officially on the table are rapid bus service and light rail, but if the choice were anything but rail in either case it would be a huge surprise.

The leading alternative for the Red Line, supported by Mayor Sheila Diixon and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, is 4C. That alternative has been the subject of vocal protests from residents on the Edmondson Village area and Canton.

UPDATE: Mayor Dixon is on vacation out of town and won't be attending the news conference, but members of her administration will be there  and are expecting  no surprises. The same is true for Smith. Also on the guest list is Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a public backer of the plan Dixon and Smith have endorsed. It would be quite a  shock if the governor invited Fry only to choose some other plan. Also, the governor's office -- while  not tipping its hand on its choice -- acknowledged that  the Maryland Transit Administration managed to bring the leading option within federal cost-effectiveness guidelines.

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