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Nine mayors from cities in Indiana and Ohio signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) earlier this week to jointly secure funding for an environmental study of a proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger-rail corridor.The MOA calls for the cities to develop the high-speed rail intercity system in cooperation with existing freight-rail operators and owners of right of way along the corridor from Chicago to Columbus thorough northern Indiana. The project would be known as the Indiana/Ohio High Speed Rail Initiative, the mayors said in a joint press release.The Indiana cities involved are Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary; the Ohio cities are Columbus, Marysville, Kenton and Lima.Specifically, the MOA calls for the parties to secure funding for the federally required Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the next step in developing the passenger-rail line. The EIS would examine the preliminary engineering, technical analysis, service planning and environmental impacts along several different routes in order to determine the preferred route for locating the rail lines. Once completed, the EIS would be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration.The study could begin in late 2014 and would take 18 months to complete, the mayors said."This is a big step forward in the effort to bring passenger rail back to our community," said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. "The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor will be good for citizens throughout northern Indiana and central Ohio. It will increase transportation alternatives and help boost economic development and tourism."A rail corridor feasibility study done in 2013 estimated 2.1 million riders would use the route in 2020, with that projection growing to 3 million in 2040. Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc. conducted the study for the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association.The 300-mile passenger-rail corridor would be used by up to 12 trains daily in each direction. Express services would link downtown Chicago to Columbus in less than four hours.