Local and federal officials broke ground Tuesday on a light rail line project that will connect the Expo and Green lines, crossing Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills and Inglewood.

“Bringing light rail to this community will spur local economic development and make it easier than ever for residents to access downtown Los Angeles and beyond,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said during the ceremony at the Expo/Crenshaw light rail station.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors last June approved a nearly $1.3 billion contract for construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX rail line. The board also approved a $160 million contingency fund for the project, for a total budget of nearly $2.06 billion, according to Metro.

The project is one of 12 funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program made a $545.9 million loan toward the project.

“The Obama Administration is committed to investing in good transportation projects like the Crenshaw/LAX line to create ladders of opportunity for millions of Americans, and we are proud to help make this project possible with a $545 million loan,” Foxx said.

The line will stretch from the Expo Line station at Crenshaw Boulevard and travel south, eventually connecting with the Metro Green Line’s Aviation/LAX station. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

“This has been a decades-long, monumental effort by an array of elected officials, community advocates and Metro staff,” county Supervisor and Metro board member Mark Ridley-Thomas said when the board approved the project last year. “We did this together and now we are poised to begin construction on a dream that will help millions.”

He noted that the line would include sites such as the Forum, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and Leimert Park.

Not everyone is happy about plans for the line. A group known as the Crenshaw Subway Coalition contends that the portions of the line being built at street level instead of underground “will devastate the last Black businesscorridor.”

Metro officials countered that a larger portion of the line will be built below ground than other light rail lines, including the Expo Line.