Los Angeles syncs up all 4,500 of its traffic lights

From MSN.com - It has taken 30 years and $400 million, but Los Angeles has finally synchronized its traffic lights in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, becoming the first city in the world to do so. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said with the 4,500 lights now in sync, commuters will save 2.8 minutes driving five miles in Los Angeles, The New York Times reported. Villaraigosa also said that the average speed would rise more than two miles per hour on city streets and that carbon emissions would be greatly reduced as drivers spend less time starting and stopping.
     The initiative, Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control, began ahead of the 1984 Olympics to preempt traffic snarls as visitors swarmed to events. Today, it uses underground magnetic censors to measure traffic conditions. That data is sent through fiber-optic cables to a central control where, without human intervention, it's analyzed and stored to predict future patterns.
     According to the Times, the control system adjusts traffic signals and has the ability to extend green lights for buses traveling in bus-only lanes during periods of heavy congestion. It also accounts for special events, like the Oscars or a presidential visit, by releasing light patterns to vehicles that advise them of alternative routes. The censors also detect bicycles and pedestrian traffic in certain neighborhoods.
     Despite what the city is calling a victory for commuters and the environment, experts aren’t so sure the expensive innovation can combat greater factors at play. According to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute report, drivers nationwide have wasted more time commuting since 2008. In 2011, they were delayed almost 5.5 billion hours on the road, up from 1.1 billion in 1982. Individuals spent 38 hours delayed in 2011.
     "If we reduce average travel time in Los Angeles by 20 percent, then we will see more people traveling," professor James E. Moore II, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, told the Times. "It's money well spent, but part of the benefit is not speed but throughput." Read more

Silver Alert program to go live in July

Gov. Susana Martinez has signed legislation into law to create a statewide Silver Alert program to help locate missing people with dementia and other conditions. 

The law takes effect in July, and the program will notify law enforcement agencies, the news media and others when a person 50 years or older suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia, or a brain injury goes missing. 

About 30 other states operate similar programs, which are modeled after the Amber Alert system that provides for emergency distribution of notices of a child's abduction.

In signing the measure on Monday, Martinez said the Silver Alert program "will protect seniors who might not be able to protect themselves." 

The governor's father died late last year after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.


Gov. approves funds for horse testing

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez plans to sign legislation into law to finance more testing of race horses for illegal drug use and impose tougher penalties for violations. 
The governor's office said Martinez is to sign the legislation Tuesday in Las Cruces.
 One measure is to provide an estimated $700,000 a year for testing by the State Racing Commission. The money will come from an existing tax on pari-mutuel wagering at horse racing tracks. 
Under another bill, the commission could impose civil penalties up to $100,000 for violations of rules against performance enhancing drugs for horses. 
The legislation to toughen regulation came after a New York Times investigation last year highlighted horse deaths and jockey injuries at tracks in New Mexico and across the nation.


Volunteer firefighter retirement benefits to increase

Retirement benefits will increase for New Mexico's volunteer firefighters under legislation that has been signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez. 
The measure, which takes effect in July, will boost retirement benefits to $250 a month — up from $200 currently — for volunteer firefighters who are at least age 55 and served for 25 or more years. 
Retirement benefits will increase to $125 a month — from $100 currently — for those who are age 55 and have served at least 10 years but less than 25 years.
 There are about 670 retirees and nearly 5,100 active volunteer firefighters across the state.


Judge puts NM water lawsuit on hold

A judge has put New Mexico's lawsuit against the federal government over Rio Grande water management on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to take up a separate lawsuit by Texas against New Mexico
U.S. District Court Judge James Browning ruled that Texas' lawsuit might render the issues in the state-federal lawsuit moot. 
The litigation revolves around water flowing out of Elephant Butte Reservoir to farms and cities in southern New Mexico and northwest Texas
New Mexico alleged the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was releasing water from Elephant Butte for use in Texas that really belonged to New Mexico. Texas alleged groundwater pumping in the Hatch and Mesilla valleys of southern New Mexico was draining the Rio Grande.