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Ask Matt ... about bike lanes, alarms, road work

AskMatt answers your questions.

Q. Do we have a countywide extreme weather emergency alarm system?

Yes, but it's now in the digital age. There may be fewer than a dozen active siren alarms located at fire stations throughout Henderson County. Sirens are tested remotely from our 9-1-1 Operations Center each Saturday.
According to Emergency Services Director Rocky Hyder, the county's outdoor sirens were once the primary alert mechanism for tornados but studies have proven sirens minimally effective because too many residents are out of range or are otherwise distracted. "Sirens were once used to summon volunteers to the firehouse, but today most responders are notified by portable radio or cell phone," he said. Hyder also shared that citizens can receive emergency broadcasts by purchasing a NOAA alert radio plus there are a dozen free government message services available which can text your cell phone if there is hazardous weather in your area — wherever you are in the United States (Web search "NWS email alerts"). As for those emergency sirens, maybe we'll hear them if the Canadians storm across the border; otherwise we'll just have to wait for a tornado.

Q. Why is it costing so much for bike lanes on Howard Gap Road?

According to NCDOT District Engineer Steve Cannon, 5-foot bicycle lanes will be marked on each side of Howard Gap Road and will extend the full length of the 7-mile road widening project from Jackson Road in Fletcher to U.S. 64 just east of the Wal-Mart shopping center. "The additional cost to add bicycle lanes was low because the design already called for a wider grass shoulder of approximately 8 feet," he said. "So to accommodate bicycle lanes it required only minor adjustments and paving 5 feet." In other words, adding bike lanes reduced the shoulder width, called for less grading, and required no expensive right-of-way purchase.
Cannon put the cost of the additional paving at $221,000 or 1.3% of the overall project budget. Whether that's a lot of little may depend on where you stand — on pedals, for instance. "This is the first project of its kind in the county and I was surprised how little the construction cost was," Joe Saunders, president of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, told me. "Evidence shows that once you put in bike lanes people will use them. Bike lanes are so popular in Minneapolis that the city gets complaints if they aren't plowed for snow before the roads."

Q. The new Kanuga Road paving job is great but it appears that the white and yellow painted lines are not reflective when the pavement is wet. How come?
NCDOT traffic engineers reviewed the construction report and maintain that the reflective paint does in fact meet the specifications for required reflectivity. Paint striping contains glass beads which reflect light to the driver's eyes. The paint is only about 1/32 inch in thickness and when it rains water may flow over the striping reducing the reflectivity. I hope that helps.

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Send your questions about a local issue, event, sighting or anything that is puzzling you and the Lightning's intrepid researcher will try to get an answer. Email Matt at: