FLEMINGTON, NJ – Although there is a controversy in Washington about the blue line some municipalities have painted on their streets, a battle is underway to ensure Flemington’s blue line remains, at least for now.
The Federal Highway Administration recently wrote a letter to many county officials stating blue line displays are in violation of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways.
But two New Jersey congressmen are the latest to have taken up the cause of several New Jersey municipalities, including Flemington. On Tuesday, Reps. Leonard Lance (NJ-07) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) proposed the Blue Line Use Exception Act, legislation that would permit thin blue lines to be displayed on roadways in support of local police.
Lance and Pascrell are members of the Law Enforcement Caucus, and think the FHA directive is an overreaction.
“One hundred thirty five police officers died in the line of duty in 2016,” said Lance. “Seeing those faces on the news has been heartbreaking. And events like the mass killing of Dallas police officers last year are sickening and outrageous."
"Local communities should be able to honor law enforcement without the federal government telling them ‘no’,” Lance added. “We should honor police personnel all year, especially as we celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Our bill will let local New Jersey communities keep their ‘blue line’ dedications.”
In an interview today, Flemington Councilman Brian Swingle described FHA’s notice as “an over-reach by the federal government, in the waning days of an outgoing administration.”
Swingle said the FHA’s rules are “standards, not requirements” and that “communities have a right to self-determination.”
Flemington officials had a blue line painted down Main Street in October, a move that pleased some, but bothered others. It led to a community meeting last month sponsored by Flemington DIY, which was sparked - in part - by the borough asking the DIY group to remove a "Black Lives Matter" sign DIY posted in its window at 90 Main Street.
The three-hour meeting can be viewed on DIY's Facebook page. Ironically, 90 Main Street is adjacent to Flemington Police headquarters.
Swingle said the borough’s blue line is “not divisive ... Its intent is clear: To recognize the sacrifice of law enforcement. There is nothing more honorable than that.”
“I can assure the U.S. Department of Transportation that there is no confusion on the meaning of the painted blue line across many communities in New Jersey," Pascrell said, referring to a Department of Transportation directive that said the blue lines could be confused with the blue color used to designate handicapped parking spaces.
Earlier this month, state Assemblyman Erik Peterson, R-23rd, introduced a resolution objecting to the recent FHA ruling.
Some municipalities, such as nearby Hillsborough, have chosen to paint their thin blue lines on interior roadways on municipal property to avoid conflict with local, state and national traffic laws.