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Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) has signed a contract with HNTB Corporation to conduct the required analysis of the proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail line.

As announced in a December news conference, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and NIPRA members announced Federal and State support to conduct the Alternatives Analysis and Public Involvement Process. The analysis is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) under federal law in order to begin the rail project.

As part of the work, HNTB will examine the route alternatives, preliminary engineering, technical analysis, and service planning along the proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route. The analysis is expected to be complete by late fall 2017 and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will be the lead agency on the process and utilize information gained in this work.

Once HNTB’s work is complete, engineering and design to upgrade the existing tracks can begin, pending funding. Supporters of passenger rail are optimistic limited service could begin by 2020.

Cost of the analysis is just under $350,000 and is being paid for with funding from cities and businesses along the corridor.

The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor would provide high-quality passenger rail connections to 100 Midwest cities through a regional rail network that offers safe, comfortable and reliable service with amenities such as Wi-Fi and food service. Initial plans are for trains to travel at a maximum speed of approximately 75 miles per hour and eventually travel at 110 miles per hour. In many communities along the route, scheduled stops would take place at existing historic train stations, such as the Baker Street Train Station, 221 W. Baker St. More information about the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail can be found online at www.niprarail.org.

HNTB Corporation is an international employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors. With more than a century of service, HNTB understands the life cycle of infrastructure and addresses clients’ most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals deliver a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program and construction management.