The Metropolitan Council last week chose Siemens to manufacture 27 light-rail vehicles worth $118 million for the Southwest light-rail project.

The $1.9 billion transit line will link downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Service is schedule to begin in 2021.

Siemens also built light-rail vehicles five years ago for the original Green Line, which links the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The new cars will feature better access for passengers in wheelchairs and with disabilities, according to the Met Council. Each LRT vehicle will hold more than 200 people, or about 600 people on three-car trains with one operator.

The Met Council said the cost of the purchase will be matched by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is paying for half of the total project. The amount of the contract is 5 percent lower than the lowest cost estimate, and includes an option for the council to buy 50 more vehicles for the Bottineau Blue Line LRT, which is scheduled to open the same year.

The FTA is expected to approve Southwest's entry into the engineering phase in late November 2016. Heavy construction will begin in the summer of 2017.

Janet Moore