Traffic jams are annoying. Potholes, too. But according to a recent study by a Washington D.C. think tank, their impact isn’t limited to our psyches. They’re hitting our pocketbooks as well.

A nonprofit group called The Road Information Program found that congested and deficient roads cost Californians an astounding $44 billion a year in extra car expenses and traffic-related delays. That works out to nearly $1,900 annually per San Diego-area driver.

But don’t launch into road rage quite yet. For once, the Legislature was ahead of the curve and recently sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that could help alleviate the problem.

Assembly Bill 1447 by San Diego Republican Assemblywoman Marie Waldron would authorize cap and trade revenues to be used for traffic light synchronization, which is thought to reduce congestion, car accidents and even greenhouse gas emissions – hence the tie to cap and trade.

Cap and trade is shorthand for one of the major programs created by AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The cap and trade program established an ever-declining limit on emissions and created a marketplace where pollution permits can be traded among regulated facilities. Purchases of those allowances creates revenue, which flows to a special fund for clean energy efforts.

Waldron’s bill simply clarifies the law to say that traffic signal synchronization projects qualify for the cap and trade revenues.

So what is synchronization? Traditional traffic lights, as you probably know, are timed. Synchronized traffic lights, on the other hand, use sensors to make adjustments on the fly to eliminate gridlock. Supporters tout synchronization as a good way to cut travel times, which in turn reduces emissions , although some question whether it ultimately will combat congestion.

“It helps older cities. It helps under-served or poorer communities because that’s where we’ve got the congested roadways. The more I learned, the more I got excited about it,” said Waldron, who first studied synchronized traffic lights as a city councilwoman in Escondido. That city, however, never found a funding source to install synchronized lights, she said. With AB 1447, the assemblywoman hopes to change that. “It’s definitely something that’s needed,” she said.

Whether you think Waldron’s proposal is a smart idea, it’s a good example of a typical bill that passes through Sacramento each year. Most legislation isn’t like AB 32; most don’t propose sweeping changes or brand new ventures. Rather, the vast majority of bills introduced in Sacramento propose small (or perhaps even unnecessary) adjustments to existing laws. Maybe it looks glamorous on TV, but in reality legislating can be quite mundane.

Quick Hits

• The Sacramento County DA has offered Sen. Ben Hueso a lesser charge in his DUI case. He was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, but the senator was granted a delay until Nov. 6 — just after the election. Check out our earlier Fact Check that explains what a “wet reckless” charge is. (U-T)

• Los Angeles-area Sen. Rod Wright resigned after being convicted of perjury and voting fraud for lying about where he lives. (State lawmakers have to live in the districts they represent.) He maintains that the doesn’t think he did anything wrong. (Sacramento Bee)

• Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state’s first rules for groundwater pumping. (Associated Press)

• Fifty-six percent of California voters support keeping the death penalty, the lowest percentage in about 50 years. (L.A. Times)

• A proposal to divide California into six separate states has failed to garner enough signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. (KQED)

• Only 1 in 4 likely voters can ID the governor’s Republican challenger – Neel Kashkari. (L.A. Times)

• Truancy is costing California school districts billions of dollars in state funding annually. (S.F. Chronicle)

• Sheesh: California will continue its slow economic recovery through 2016. (L.A. Times)

What’s Next?

Prediction: Now-former Sen. Rod Wright will land a high-level government affairs job with a major player in California politics. He’s a moderate Democrat known for his charm and many in political circles feel his prosecution was unfair. He’ll land on his feet – and probably make more money than he ever could have in politics.

Brian Joseph

Brian Joesph is a Voice of San Diego contributor. He has covered the state capitol for more than seven years. You can reach him at

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