November 23, 2004

Congress has approved $75 million for the Valley’s planned light-rail line — by far the largest single source of money the project has secured to date.

Valley Metro Rail CEO Rick Simonetta on Monday said he was "thrilled" to learn Congress approved the funds Saturday in a $388 billion budget.

Officials had worried Congress might not come through with the money, given the pressure to curb deficit spending. The approval, along with President Bush recommending the $75 million in his budget, shows the project enjoys strong support in Washington, Simonetta said.

The project has already received $97.8 million in federal funds, but the largest single approval until now was $16 million. The project still needs to clear the Federal Transit Administration, which must recommend $587.2 million in federal funds. That should come in January, said Daina Mann, Va lley Metro Rail spokeswoman.

Rail officials expect to begin building the 20-mile line next year and to open it in late 2008. Another 27 miles are planned as part of Proposition 400.

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