Some roads in New Jersey may be striped with good intentions, but federal officials have stepped in to say that the blue lines painted to honor police officers are a safety issue and should be removed.
As PaintSquare News reported in October, a group of towns in Bergen County, NJ, recently began a new practice of laying down a “thin blue line” of paint between the two yellow lines that signify the border between opposing lanes of traffic, generally in the vicinity of a police station. The blue line is meant to honor fallen officers and express support for police in general.
But some registered concerned about the variation on the standard pattern, and how drivers might interpret it. While Bergen County and some others allowed the practice, claiming there was no clear rule in the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices about coloration between the yellow lines, other municipalities chose not to permit the painting.
Now, the FHWA has weighed in. According to NJ.com, the federal agency sent a letter to the Somerset County, NJ, Engineering Department, stating that blue paint is meant to denote parking spaces for people with disabilities, and should not be used on road surfaces for any other purposes.
“Section 3A.06 of the MUTCD states that the pattern of a longitudinal double line shall be two parallel lines separated by a discernible space,” the letter, sent in December, reads. “For this space between the two lines to be discernible it must represent a lack of other markings. Accordingly, the pavement surface must be visible in the space between the lines in the same way that it is visible outside the lines.
“There are many appropriate and fitting ways to recognize service to the public that do not involve the modification of a traffic control device, which can put the road user at risk due to misinterpretation of its meaning," Mark R. Kehrli, of the FHWA's Office of Transportation Operations, adds in the letter.
Some local officials are bristling at the notice. Sal Bonaccorso, mayor of Clark, NJ, told a local radio show, “It just made me chuckle that this is what we’re worried about in a time when police need our support every day.”
The police chief of nearby Howell Township told NJ.com, "Although absurd, we would paint over the approximately 200-foot line if required. I'll just paint the entire parking lot blue at the police department."