House bill extends U.S. highway funding, boosts airport funding

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday proposed spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control operations, as well as to extend surface transportation programs.

Earlier this year, Congress agreed to suspend taxes on passenger airline tickets, cargo and fuel for the remainder of 2020. Significantly reduced travel demand because of the coronavirus pandemic and the tax suspension has led to a major shortfall in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

The bill also proposes extending surface transportation funding for another year. Congress has struggled for years to find a way to fund highway repairs as gasoline tax revenue has lagged spending. The House bill proposes directing $13.6 billion from the general fund to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit.

House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio said “with this one-year extension in place, we can continue work on a long-term, transformational bill.”

Representative Sam Graves, the top Republican on the panel, said the extension provides “immediate, desperately needed certainty to state DOTs and transportation and construction industry workers.”

On June 15, Reuters and Bloomberg News reported that the Trump administration was preparing an infrastructure package of up to $1 trillion focused on transportation projects as part of its push to spur the world’s largest economy back to life.

After weeks of internal debate, the White House opted not to make the plan public ahead of the November presidential election, sources told Reuters.

In July, the House approved a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package to boost spending on roads, bridges, public transit and rail over 10 years – a plan the White House rejected.

Since 2008, Congress has transferred about $141 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Congress has not boosted the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax since 1993. That tax is now worth just 10.2 cents after adjusting for inflation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Contest Will Flush Out America’s Best Bathroom, DFW Airport In The Running

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For the first time in eight years, the title of America’s Best Restroom could return to Texas.

DFW Airport was nominated as a finalist in the contest sponsored by Cintas Corporation. The 19th annual contest celebrates innovative and hygienic public restrooms across the country.

“This year’s contest recognizes a wide range of finalists, each offering a one-of-a-kind restroom experience with the latest technology or imaginative decor,” said Sean Mulcahey, Marketing Manager, Cintas. “As the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of clean restrooms to the forefront, we’re proud to spotlight these unique and well-maintained restrooms that provide comfortable spaces for guests.

Bathrooms at DFW Airport feature integrated smart restroom technology into all of its gate-side restrooms to include aesthetically pleasing fixtures, touch free dispensing, consumable tracking, and other smart restroom features, allowing staff to operate on demand, rather than a time-scheduled approach for making sure the restrooms are cleaned and well stocked. Digital signage outside each restroom tells guests how many stalls are open, when cleaning is in progress, and indicator lights inside let them know which stalls are available. The features will help with social distancing efforts during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as data for the cleaning staff to efficiently manage increased cleaning protocols.

The public can vote multiple times here for their favorite finalist now through October 19.

The winner will earn a place in the America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame and receive a Cintas UltraClean restroom cleaning service and $2,500 in facility services or restroom cleaning from Cintas.

Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels won the contest in 2012.

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White House orders end to COVID-19 airport screenings for international travelers

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Monday will stop conducting enhanced screening of passengers on inbound international flights for COVID-19, Yahoo News has learned. 

The screening operations have been held at select airports since January, when the first cases of the disease began to emerge from Wuhan, China. Since March, incoming international flights from select high-risk countries, including much of Europe, China and Iran, among other regions, have been funneled through 15 designated airports in the United States.

On Monday, the government will stop conducting enhanced screening of passengers on inbound international flights for the coronavirus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
On Monday, the government will stop conducting enhanced screening of passengers on inbound international flights for the coronavirus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As of Monday, however, international flights will no longer be funneled into select airports for screening purposes and all screenings will come to a halt, according to communications and sources. All screenings and rerouting of select international flights will cease at exactly 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14.

Currently, travelers upon arrival to the United States are sent to health screeners who take their temperatures and conduct a basic health screening with questions about typical COVID-19 symptoms. After the health screening, passengers proceed through passport control and customs.

One aspect of the screening is that travelers provide contact information, which can be used to perform contact tracing for infections. Without that information, it likely won’t be possible to contact passengers on a flight who may have potentially been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.

The orders to cease prescreening operations came from the White House, with strict orders to keep the information secret until a public announcement is made. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the various agencies — and contractors — involved in the airport screening operations are working frantically to prepare for Monday’s shutdown.

There are several agencies involved in aspects of the screenings, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security. Most screenings are administered at the airports by AMR, a Dallas contractor.

President Trump at a White House press briefing on Monday. (Oliver Contreras/Washington Post via Getty Images)
President Trump at a White House press briefing on Monday. (Oliver Contreras/Washington Post via Getty Images)

The White House orders to shut down the airport screenings for inbound international passengers comes amid rising COVID-19 case numbers and death counts and as experts warn of a potential second wave of the pandemic this fall.

The White House, the CDC, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and AMR did not immediately respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.

A government official told Yahoo News that the Transportation Security Administration, which is not directly involved in the screenings, had been briefed on the upcoming changes for its awareness.

The airport screening changes come not long after news late last month that employers were shedding more than 100,000 jobs, with airlines a major driver of those cuts.

This is also not the first time the White House has struggled with the question of airport COVID-19 screenings. The House oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy has previously criticized the White House for what it regarded as

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