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Southwest LRT proposal gets permission to start engineering work

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Planned Southwest light rail route
The planned route for the Southwest light rail line, as of April 2016.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Council

The Federal Transit Administration gave engineers the go-ahead Wednesday to finalize designs for the Southwest light rail project. 

The 14.5-mile, $1.8 billion extension of the Green Line will connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck said getting approval to start engineering work is a major milestone, and the last step before securing federal funding. Duininck said he doesn't expect the transition to the Trump administration to impede progress.

"Projects happen in a lot of diverse places around the country and they don't typically get slowed up because of a change in presidential administrations," Duininck said.

Southwest LRT faced a critical funding shortfall earlier this year when the Minnesota Legislature declined to approve $135 million in state funding. But the Met Council, Hennepin County and other Twin Cities counties agreed to fill the gap. 

Duininck said the Met Council could begin awarding construction contracts in June. 

Planners expect the line to open in 2021.