Feds allow Southwest light rail line to enter engineering phase

The Metropolitan Council received a holiday present in the form of a federal approval for the planned Southwest Light Rail Transit line.

The Federal Transit Administration authorized the project’s entry into engineering Dec. 21, about a month after Met Council leaders had anticipated. Nevertheless, the approval allows project staff to finalize designs. Construction could begin in 2017.

“We continue full steam ahead on the Southwest LRT project,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck in a statement. “The continued confidence and support from the FTA underscores this project’s strength as an efficient and effective way to connect people with jobs and expand opportunities in our region.”

The Met Council plans to apply for a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement in February, Duininck said. Federal approval for its share of the funding, slated to be half of the project costs, could come next July. The total cost is estimated at about $1.9 billion.

“I’m proud this project continues to maintain support not just at the federal level, but from our local community and business leaders as well,” Duininck said.

The FTA approved an environmental review for the project earlier this year.

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