A new panel in the U.S. House has been tasked with the job of examining the current state of freight transportation in the United States and how improving freight transportation can strengthen the economy.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV) have announced the members of the new Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation.

The goal is to come up with a series of recommendations that are expected to be a big part of the next Highway Bill before the current one expires in September 2014. Members are expected to put together a freight plan on using various transportation modes such as trucking, rails, waterways and others, when it comes to the planning and policy of the nation’s infrastructure.

That’s because highway funding legislation passed last year, MAP-21, does not include an overall strategy for the various transportation modes as some lawmakers have pushed for. Instead it directs the U.S. Transportation Department to identify and set up a network of roads and bridges considered essential to moving freight, with Congress encouraging the DOT to consider connections to other freight-moving modes.

The full committee’s Vice Chairman, Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN), will chair the new Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will serve as the panel’s ranking member. The panel will serve for a period of six months, beginning with its first scheduled hearing April 24.

“Given that freight transportation cuts across many modes, this panel will play a critical role in providing recommendations on how to improve the efficient movement of goods between highways, ports, inland waterways, railroads, air carriers, and pipelines,” said Schuster.

The other Republican members of the panel are:

  • Gary Miller, Calif.
  • Rick Crawford, Ark.
  • Richard Hanna, N.Y.
  • Daniel Webster, Fla.
  • Markwayne Mullin, Okla.

The other Democratic members of the panel are:

  • Jerrold Nadler, N.Y.
  • Corrine Brown, Fla.
  • Daniel Lipinski, Ill.
  • Albio Sires, N.J.
Janice Hahn, Calif.

“In the past, the conversation about freight transportation and goods movement has focused only on one specific mode of transportation or another,” said Rep. Duncan, the new panel’s chairman. “But freight doesn’t move just by ship, or by rail car, or by truck. Bottlenecks during any leg of that journey from the manufacturer to the market drive up costs. That’s why improving the flow of freight across all modes of transportation is so critical to a healthy economy.”

Additional details about the panel’s first hearing on April 24 will be announced later.