Panama's congressional budget committee has approved an initial payment of US$87mn for Panama City's metro line 1 project, congress reported on its website.
The payment will go to the group responsible for building the metro line, which is expected to be announced in October. Work is scheduled to start in January.
Two groups are in the running to carry out the project: consortium Linea Uno, comprised of Brazilian firm Odebrecht and Spain's FCC; and Grupo Italiano Metro Panama, led by Italy's Impregilo and including compatriot firms Astaldi and Ghella.
In August, the presidential office asked the economy and finance ministry (MEF) to approve a US$529mn budget for Panama City's metro in FY11.
While the exact cost of the metro system has yet to be confirmed, estimates put the required investment at some US$1.5bn.
The first line of the metro system is scheduled to be ready by December 31, 2013.
The metro line will run 13.7km from Los Andes neighborhood in the north of the city to the Albrook terminal in the south, with 13 stations in total.