By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – As crews begin welding steel track together this week for the M-1 Rail cars at a work site just off Woodward Ave., the 3.3-mile-long project received $12.2 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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This new funding, obtained by the southeast Michigan’s congressional delegation, comes from the U.S. DOT’s TIGER discretionary grant program, which invests in local transportation projects designed to strengthen the economy, according to officials.

“It’s an exciting time to be a Detroiter,” said Sen. Carl Levin in a release. “Today’s grant announcement is the final piece of the puzzle for the M-1 project, which represents years of work by the Detroit community. The M-1 project will produce even more development along the Woodward Corridor in the coming years.”

The grant will be used to offset the $140 million cost of the project, which is being funded through a public, private and philanthropic partnership. The light rail system, which runs from Jefferson to Grand Blvd., began construction in July and is expected to be operational by the winter of 2016.

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The news of the additional funding came as contractors and subcontractors began welding 80-foot long segments of track into 560-foot string of continuously welded rail.

A construction crew of about 10 people are working at an outdoor, assembly line in Midtown to take the track and clamp it together to be welded, polished and stored for installation along the first stretch of project between Campus Martius and Grand Circus Park.

“It is very historic,” said Sommer Woods, director of external relations for M-1 Rail, of the project which continues to move forward with a number of partners. “Not only is a rail and streetcar system is coming back to the city of Detroit, but it is historic in how we got to this point. It is a collaboration with all of our public and private partners.”

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