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Feds: Remove 'Thin Blue Line' from Roads

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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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.

Feds Intervene

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.

Local Reaction

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."

   

Tagged categories: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Roads/Highways; Striping

Comment from Bill Patterson, (1/12/2017, 9:26 AM)

Has anybody else noticed that, when wet, thermoplastic pavement markings become quite slick? I've slipped on them (but never fallen) as a pedestrian, and I've noticed momentary slippage as a driver, and I've wondered about the frictional coefficient of the blue disability parking spaces and the large green areas at intersections that are appearing in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) denoting bicycle safety areas. With no disrespect to our law enforcement officers, I'd say keep the coefficient of friction of the pavement surfaces at a maximum unless other safety considerations (i.e. lane delineation markings) take priority.


Comment from John Perez, (1/13/2017, 9:06 AM)

Put anti slip agent in the paint and do it throughout the country.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/23/2017, 8:55 AM)

You don't add antislip to the thermoplastic itself, because your tires shouldn't actually be contacting (much) thermoplastic. You are slipping on the embedded or drop-on glass beads which project out of the surface and provide retroreflectivity. To increase friction, you have to replace some of the beads with grit, which reduces retroreflectivity.


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