MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin regulators have approved plans for a power line that will run between Alma and Holmen in western Wisconsin.

The three-person Public Service Commission agreed unanimously Thursday to green-light the project, saying it will increase regional and local transmission reliability.

"We appreciate the time and effort of the Commission and staff as well as the many agencies and other stakeholders. The Wisconsin regulatory process is thorough, comprehensive and provides many opportunities for public and agency involvement," said Priti Patel, CapX2020 co-director. "The project expands the electric infrastructure to support the area's long-term economic development and job growth."

The commission also settled on a route calling for the line to cross the Mississippi River west of Alma, run through Galesville and end at a new substation just west of Holmen. The line will link to a larger transmission project dubbed CapX2020 to serve Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. Detailed route maps will be posted by May 14 at www.capx2020.com/lacrosse.

"The Commissioners considered the route's impacts and approved the route they saw as having the fewest impacts," said Tom Hillstrom, project routing lead. "We look forward to working with each agency to issue the final permits so that the line can be built and energized by 2015."

The CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project has been identified in numerous state and regional planning studies. Experts testifying at the Commission's technical hearings in March agreed that a transmission deficit exists in the La Crosse area and that transmission line construction is necessary. The project will address regional deficiencies identified by the Midwest ISO, which concluded that if the project isn't constructed, substantial overloading of existing transmission in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota will occur.

Rural Utilities Service is expected to issue the federal Environmental Impact Statement, which covers the entire project, in June, with federal approval this fall. Construction is expected to start in Minnesota in early 2013 and in Wisconsin in late 2013. The Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project is scheduled to be energized in 2015. With the modified Galesville route, the estimated project cost in Wisconsin is $210 million, and the overall project cost is approximately $500 million.

Partners in the CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project include Dairyland Power Cooperative, Rochester Public Utilities, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, WPPI Energy and Xcel Energy.

(The Associated Press and Xcel Energy contributed to this story)