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HNTB Corp. by year's end is expected to complete an analysis of operating plans and preliminary costs for a proposed passenger-rail line connecting Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.The alternatives analysis is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to begin the project. Once completed, the analysis could position the project to receive federal funds for design and construction, according to a press release issued by the city of Fort Wayne, Ind.The proposed line would run through Fort Wayne and several other Indiana cities."We are making great progress in our efforts to return passenger rail to Fort Wayne and northern Indiana and northwest Ohio," said Geoff Paddock, a member of the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIRPA) and the Fort Wayne City Council. "This passenger-rail line will boost economic development efforts by connecting people and businesses throughout the region and it will enhance the quality of life for area residents."As part of the analysis, HNTB will recommend a route, operating speeds, train frequency and station sites, as well as estimated ridership rates and revenue. The $350,000 analysis is being funded by cities and businesses along the corridor.Trains on the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route would travel at a maximum speed of 75 mph, with the eventual goal of traveling at 110 mph.In December 2016, NIRPA announced that the Federal Railroad Administration would conduct the alternatives analysis and solicit public input on the project. HNTB was the contractor hired to complete the study.