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All aboard! With Minneapolis vote, all 5 cities have approved SW light rail plan

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The long-discussed plan to bring a light rail line to the southwest metro suburbs has had a number of key moments over the years – but Friday morning marked one of most crucial.

With a 10-3 vote, the Minneapolis City Council gave its final approval to the 16-mile line that would run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, clearing the track for the project to move forward.

Planners now hope to complete the $1.6 billion rail line, said to be the most expensive transit project in state history, by 2019.

Five cities needed to offer their final approval to the plan for it to move forward, and four had already offered it: Eden Prairie, St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka.

Minneapolis on Friday became the fifth city when the Council voted after about an hour of debate. Minneapolis Council Members Barb Johnson, Cam Gordon and Lisa Goodman were the three members who voted against the approval, the Star Tribune notes.

The plan remains controversial. Some city leaders have had resentments over how money for the project would be doled out to different municipalities.

Other long-standing concerns have included worries about the route, proposed tunnels and the project's impact on the environment.

"We would essentially be taking an action today not knowing whether or not this shallow tunnel, which is to be built between 18 and 20 feet below the water level, will have an impact on our lakes and environment," Goodman said, KARE 11 noted.

The project is being funded with a mix of federal, state and local sources, with about half from federal funds. The 17-station line is being planned as an extension of the newly opened Green Line route, which connects the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

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