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Push continues for rail line connecting Chicago, Columbus

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — A proposed passenger rail line that would run from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio, could see between 387,000 and 765,000 passengers annually, according to an engineering firm's analysis.

The Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association and engineering firm HNTB argued Thursday that the proposed Amtrak line would connect cities that don't have convenient connections, The Times reported .

The proposed line includes several stops across northern Indiana, including Valparaiso, Plymouth, Warsaw, Columbia City and Fort Wayne. Stops in Ohio include Van Wert, Lima and Columbus.

"This service is very competitive with auto travel on this corridor," HNTB Associate Vice President Caron Kloser said.

Passenger numbers will depend on the train's speed and the number of daily round-trips, HNTB's analysis said.

The service could see revenue from $13.8 million to $28.1 million annually, depending on the frequency of trips, HNTB estimates. It would likely see an operating deficit of $3.6 million to $7.3 million, which would need to be made up from public sources.

The project could cost between $898 million and $1.2 billion, HNTB said.

Supporters hope the Federal Railroad Administration would cover 80 percent of the cost. The rest would be made up by state and local governments, as well as businesses that would benefit from the service.

The rail association will next conduct a more thorough economic analysis, prepare a detailed service plan and conduct an environmental review.

"We wanted to do as much work as we could in advance of asking for those federal funds," Kloser said.

The service could be operational between 2026 and 2030 if the group can successfully gain approval, Kloser said.