It would be easy to call the gridlock in Congress laughable, except for the real impact it has on our everyday lives — such as the gridlock on highways.

Case in point is the massive transportation spending bill, a confusion of practical and political priorities that lawmakers seem incapable of turning into clear federal policy that state and local planners can bank on. Since a five-year transportation funding plan expired in 2009, Congress has managed only a series of nine stopgap measures to keep federal gasoline taxes flowing back to the states.

Lawmakers are now in the throes of their latest attempt at a replacement plan, but the House and the Senate have strayed off in uncertain directions, seemingly oblivious to the date later this month when the current temporary highway bill expires.

The House, meanwhile, weighed in with a stinker of a transportation bill that would have scrapped the guaranteed transit support and helped pay for expanded road projects through more offshore drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was as if House leaders were going out of their way to pick partisan fights, never mind the prospects of getting something to the president’s desk.

All of this paints a picture of a Congress getting the nation nowhere fast on transportation, despite the reality of an aged system of highways, bridges, rails and ports.

— The Dallas Morning News, March 4

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