A repeating loop aired over and over on ESPN Asheville, the 1400 AM station, on April 13.

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: The new(?) traffic light at the intersection of Merrimon Avenue and Spears Avenue does not have a bag over it, or signage/indication that it is under construction and intentionally not operating. This is very misleading and dangerous because state statute NC 20-158(b)(6) states, “When a traffic signal is not illuminated due to a power outage or other malfunction, vehicles shall approach the intersection and proceed through the intersection as though such intersection is controlled by a stop sign on all approaches to the intersection.” No one is stopping and if anyone would stop (per the statute) they would be rear-ended. If this light is not going to be operational soon, please erect signage or bag the light so it’s obvious it’s not supposed to be working.

My answer: I think we can all agree that what Merrimon Avenue needs is a more confusing layout.

A reader wants to know why a signal installed in July 2022 on Merrimon Avenue appears not to have been activated. But the NCDOT explains that it’s actually a pedestrian signal, designed to reduce the distance that pedestrians have to walk between other signalized crossings on the busy thoroughfare. // Credit: North Carolina Department of Transportation

Real answer: First of all, a clarification:

“The traffic control device at the intersection of Merrimon Avenue and Spears Avenue is a pedestrian signal — not a traditional traffic signal,” David Uchiyama, spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s western district, said via email. “Known as a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB), it is designed with two red lenses above a single yellow lens. The lenses remain dark until a pedestrian desiring to cross the street pushes the call button to activate the beacon, which starts a yellow-to-red sequence for drivers.”

Pedestrian Xing: Watch out for all the bicycles on Merrimon Avenue // Credit: North Carolina Department of Transportation

The idea is to help pedestrians safely cross roads at mid-block crossings or other high frequency areas that don’t have a traffic signal, Uchiyama said. 

“The signal was installed as part of a spot-safety project identified by the City of Asheville/NCDOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Workgroup,” Uchiyama said. “It was installed and activated in late July of 2022, to reduce the distance that pedestrians have to walk between other signalized crossings on Merrimon Avenue.”

In a tweet the DOT put out about the new signal in July 2022, it noted, “Drivers must stop on red.”

So all is well here and the equipment is functioning as designed.

Question: On ESPN Asheville, the 1400 AM station, on April 13 it sounded like the recording got stuck on an announcer saying something like, “It’s a position…it’s a position…it’s a position.” This was going on at 9:15 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. What happened? It reminded me of a college professor one time who told me about a religious show in Texas getting stuck in a similar fashion, where the preacher started out saying something about, “If you don’t change your ways, you’ll go to hell.” But it kept getting abbreviated down and finally just kept repeating, “Go to hell. Go to hell. Go to hell.” With this incident, I have this image of a bedridden grandpa whose caretaker says, “I’ll put on some sports radio and check in on you tonight.”

My answer: As this reader told me this repeating loop continued until at least 7 p.m. at night, I think it’s safe to say grandpa is in a straight jacket now.

Real answer: Brian Hall, senior vice president of programming with the iHeartMedia Asheville, which airs the show, said this incident was a little mystifying to him.

“So, 1400 is a straight simulcast of 92.9FM and 880AM,” he said. “It’s a ‘trimulcast’ of ESPN. The problem that we have here (in Asheville), is that we can’t actually hear what is on in Waynesville.”

Actually, Hall followed up shortly after that phone conversation with a text noting, “As a followup to our conversation, our engineer showed me a way to listen to what is on 1400 that I was unaware of. So I’ll be keeping an eye on that now.”

Technically, it would be an ear, but I get what he’s saying.

The 1400 band airs in Haywood County, and the reader who alerted me to this glitch lives out there, so this makes sense. Still, the 1400 signal is just a straight feed, and when they checked their technology it appeared all was working properly.

“I will say that sometimes we can get things that are repeating or that stutter, and (a server) needs to be restarted,” Hall said. “The computer system that is handling that particular station might need to be restarted or might have a glitch in it.”

Still, this is all “very strange,” Hall said.

“Let’s Just Hope Grandpa Makes a Full Recovery” // Watchdog digital illustration by Peter Lewis and the DALL-E2 AI engine

Hall said he has a couple of people in Haywood who would regularly let him know if 1400 was having a problem or was off the air. I mentioned that when I tried to call the station, it rang about 10 times and then hung up on me, so I think the station had multiple glitches going on that day.

At any rate, it’s been resolved now, and the service actually should get better soon. Hall said they’re preparing to switch over to a high-speed fiber line that will make for a better signal — and allow them better real-time information.

Until then, let’s just hope grandpa makes a full recovery.

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941.