RARITAN TWP., NJ – Although they can be controversial, township officials have voted to have their own blue line.
Many municipalities have painted blue lines down the center of streets to show support for law enforcement. Flemington’s blue line debuted on Main Street in October, which triggered debate and led Flemington DIY to host a community forum on race relations. It can be viewed on the group’s Facebook page.
At the Feb. 21 Township Committee meeting, Mayor Karen Gilbert said the idea was first proposed here by Deputy Mayor Michael Mangin and former Township Committee member Pete Kinsella.
Gilbert said that when she first discussed the idea with Police Chief Glenn Tabasko, he told her it wasn’t really necessary, because he and his officers know they have the support of local elected officials as well as the community.
Township attorney Jeffrey Lehrer told the committee that the Federal Highway Administration has informed county officials that the lines “are not allowed, really” because it’s inconsistent with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways.
Committee member Craig O’Brien joked that his experience while serving in the Navy taught him “a number of colorful phrases that cover exactly what we can tell the Department of Transportation.”
Mangin had originally asked for the line to be painted on Route 523, a county road that is in front of the township’s municipal complex. But because of the regulation, Tabasko suggested painting the line on Municipal Drive, the interior road that connects the buildings within the complex and provides access to the county road.
O’Brien said he wished the line could be painted in a more prominent place, such as on Church Street between Route 202 and Route 31.
“I think you should keep it in the most discrete, inconspicuous place possible,” Lehrer said, “or else you run afoul of regulations.”
“We do know that it can be controversial, but we’re hoping that the fact that we’re just doing it in front of the police station, it’s really just showing the township’s support of the police,” the mayor said.
At the meeting, Tabasko said that the most important thing is that Mangin and others “were thoughtful enough” to even consider the line.
“We’re perfectly satisfied having it in front of the building where the officers will see it,” Tabasko said. “We know we’re appreciated.”
Committeeman Lou Reiner said the federal regulation limiting use of the blue line is “Soviet-style” regulation. “It rides rough-shod over our local autonomy and I don’t like it,” he said.
Rep. Leonard Lance has proposed the Blue Line Use Exception Act, which would permit the blue lines to be displayed on roadways in support of local police.