The Federal Transit Administration gave the approval for construction to begin on Metro’s $1.76 billion light rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard that will run from the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport to the Expo Line.

The FTA approved the final environmental impact report for the 8.5-mile line. The report still needs approval by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is expected to vote on the report at its Sept. 22 board meeting.

If the board approves the report, a request for proposals from construction companies will be issued.

It is still unclear whether the line will include an underground stop at Leimert Park, an economic and cultural hub of the Black community in South Los Angeles.

At a highly contentious meeting in May, the board declined to require the station, citing a lack of funding. However, the board voted to favor contractors who offer to include the station at the approved total project price tag of $1.76 billion.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa hailed the approval, saying it will put thousands of people to work.

“For more than 50 years, Los Angeles has waited for a rail line connecting the Crenshaw Corridor to LAX,” Villaraigosa said. “That sound you hear is the train finally moving out of the station.”

However, the line will not connect to the airport. It will connect with the Expo Line on the north end and the Green Line, which drops travelers about one-eighth of a mile from the airport, on the south end.

The line will serve passengers near Leimert Park, in Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo.

Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Mark Ridley-Thomas called the approval a big step forward and represents one of the largest public works projects in South Los Angeles.

The project “will bring much needed jobs, economic development, congestion relief and improve air quality along the corridor,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The Crenshaw/LAX line is being funded by Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008.

A community open house is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Richie Duchon