If you’ve heard of the “thin blue line,” you might know it symbolizes the role of police, standing between the community they protect and criminals. It also serves to commemorate fallen officers and to show support for the living law enforcement officials.
In many New Jersey towns, community road crews have begun to add a literal thin blue line of paint between the double yellow stripes dividing lanes of travel, often in the vicinity of a police station, NJ.com reported.
"I see communities start to paint that blue line, and it's a simple thing," Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said. "It's a chance for the community to say something about how we value the police department."
As of Oct. 10, 15 towns in Bergen County, NJ, had adopted the thin blue line on their roads, NBC New York indicated.
While most community residents support the activity and what it represents, typical concerns seem to range from whether it’s legal or will cause any confusion to drivers to the potential cost to taxpayers, reports said.
A Safety Issue?
Traditionally, two solid yellow lines in the center of a roadway are a clear sign that drivers should not cross them to pass another vehicle. A broken yellow line is a signal that it is a safe spot to do so.
Some officials, like Greg Penny, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's District 8, are concerned that a driver seeing a third, different-colored pavement marking while traveling on an unknown road in an unfamiliar town might not know what it means and get confused.
Although Penny indicated he hasn’t yet heard of blue stripes being painted on any roads in Pennsylvania, confused drivers are something any transportation department should want to avoid, PennLive noted.
That’s why the Federal Highway Administration standards published in its Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices advocate consistency in the pavement markings, sources said.
However, specific rules on whether anything can go between the double yellow center lines on a roadway appear to be lacking, NJ.com stated.
Ultimately the decision of whether to do so is left to the state, county or municipality in charge of the road.
In Bergen County, officials are allowing blue lines to be painted on county roads, but other counties in South Jersey are not permitting the pavement markings in some towns.
One town decided to add the line on roads in its park as a sign of support while keeping the township’s public roads compliant with FHWA standards.
A Nominal Expense
Costs are minimal, according to some of those involved in the initiative. Towns usually use their own time and materials to do what is reportedly a quick job, and some striping businesses even donate their service in support of the gesture.
In Laforet’s town, for instance, costs are nominal as his crews own their striping machine and they’re able to use blue paint already in stock for marking handicap spaces, he said.
Paul Mitchell, who owns Zone Striping Inc. in Glassboro, NJ, told the news site that the cost of one of these jobs usually runs about $1,000 to cover the costs of union labor, supplies and equipment.
He’s donated the work to three communities, and has reportedly offered to do so for any town that asks. For one town that wanted a particularly long stripe, however, Mitchell offered to do the job at cost, he noted.