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Roadway reflectors not economical

I want to add to Ken H.'s great question about reflectors in a previous Since You Asked. I took a recent vacation in California and was amazed at how helpful the roadway reflectors are when driving at night. My headlights seemingly lit up the lines in the streets. I've lived in a rural part of the Rogue Valley for quite some time, and a large majority of the roads are incredibly dark and dangerous to drive at night. It's especially dangerous during our severe weather months. Because the roads in the county are so hard to see while driving at night, why doesn't Jackson County have a good reflector system on all its roads?

— Richard R.

The answer to your question can be summarized with one word, Richard: "snow."

We live in a snow zone. When the plows come out, those raised reflectors can be scraped off quicker than the whiskers on your face in the morning.

"One snowstorm, and they're plowed off on the side of the road," said John Vial, Jackson County director of roads and parks.

Recessed reflectors are an option, but not necessarily a good one, Vial said.

The grooves rapidly fill with dirt and pebbles, sometimes sandblasting the reflectors so they don't reflect well anymore, according to a study by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Raised reflectors cost about $8 to $10 each to install, usually at about 40-foot intervals. With all the miles of rural roads, that's a big investment.

Recessed reflectors cost about seven times that amount, Vial said, and retractable reflectors can cost 10 to 20 times as much.

Vial said there are many roads where it would be useful to have reflectors, but they're not cost-effective.

"Our focus is on making sure our striping programs are robust and healthy," he said. "Reflectors are not a good investment."