DETROIT -

Federal officials have signed a final environmental impact statement with the city of Detroit that moves forward plans to build a $500 million light rail system along Woodward Avenue.

Mayor Dave Bing said Wednesday's signing with the Federal Transit Administration eventually will allow the city to use a $25 million grant.

"This is a landmark moment in Detroit's journey to make light rail a reality in our city," said Bing. "With the support of FTA staff we have reached this target faster than many believed was possible. From the beginning, we pledged that this administration would work tirelessly to get this project off the ground and today we are one step closer."

The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to enter a final decision Sept. 1, which will lay out how Detroit can spend more than $300 million in federal funds.

Bing said engineering work on the project already has started.

The first 3.4-mile first phase between the New Center area and downtown is expected to be completed by 2016. The route eventually will have 19 passenger stations stretching north to the city limits at Eight Mile Road.

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