This week in transportation: Freight takes center stage

The hearing follows the announcement of a "special panel tasked with developing freight transportation improvements" by House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (D-W. Va.).

Shuster said it important for lawmakers to consider freight as they craft legislation for other modes of transportation. The panel is expected to take new funding measures for rail and waterways this year.

“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,” Shuster said last week after announcing the creation of the freight panel.  

Rahall agreed, saying “almost all manner of goods sold or produced in this country take a ride on our rails, pass through our ports, wind down our waterways, or travel our highways.

“The smooth movement of cargo across all these modes of transportation is essential in keeping our economy moving which is why this panel’s task of improving the efficiency of our interconnected freight network takes on such importance," the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee said.  

The House Transportation Committee will also hold hearings Wednesday on the Army Corps of Engineers' 2014 budget request and the "state and local perspective" on the implementation of the $105 billion surface transportation bill that was approved by lawmakers last year.

The latter hearing will feature testimony from representatives of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO).