The Metropolitan Council has awarded the first big construction contract for the Southwest Corridor light rail project.
The council Thursday unanimously approved a nearly $800 million deal with Lunda Construction and C.S. McCrossan. Met Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff noted the project has been a long time in the making.
• Wednesday: Southwest light rail gets federal green light
"This is really an incredible moment," she said. "After two decades of work, we're finally ready to begin construction on this project. And I know it has not been an easy path. But projects of this scale and size are often very difficult to build."
The project has seen opposition from homeowners in its path, funding gaps, rising costs and other impediments over the years.
The council is confident that the federal government will provide $929 million to fund the light rail line. Hennepin County has also approved spending up to $435 million to commence construction.
Met Council member Jennifer Munt of Minnetonka said the project is going to provide jobs and income for a lot of people.
"This is going to create 7,500 new jobs, with a payroll of $350 million and one third of that work is going to be done by people of color."
Women will get 15 percent of the work. Construction could begin this winter. The nearly 15-mile line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie could open in 2023. On work days, the line is expected to carry 34,000 riders.