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The Detroit City Council voted Monday to approve the sale of $125 million in bonds for the first leg of a proposed light rail system that will take commuters from the New Center area to downtown.
A $25 million federal transit grant also was approved at the meeting. Investors have pledged $100 million to the project.
Work is expected to start next year on the 3.4-mile first phase. The 12-station line should be up and running in 2015.
"Detroit is a world-class city, and we should not be without rapid transit," said council President Charles Pugh. "The fact we've gotten to this point where we have a real commitment from the federal government (and) leadership in this city. Now we need the next step.
"This is something that we need, we want. It will improve development along that Woodward corridor. This is exciting. It's a big day for the city."
Some of the bond money will be used to buy new city buses and make other improvements to Detroit's transportation system.
Plans are to eventually connect the line with another section stretching north from the New Center area to Eight Mile Road. The cost of the full project is pegged at about $530 million.
Councilman Gary Brown said Monday's action "means we're off and running. ... "It gives us the starting point and the ability to raise dollars and get (funding) from Washington before others capture those dollars."