WASHINGTON - Two New Jersey congressmen have taken up the cause of several New Jersey municipalities, including Cranbury, proposing the Blue Line Use Exception Act, legislation that would permit thin blue lines to be displayed on roadways in support of local police.

Reps. Leonard Lance (R-7th) and Bill Pascrell (D-9th) introduced the BLUE proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

“One hundred thirty five police officers died in the line of duty in 2016.  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," Lance said. "Local communities should be able to honor law enforcement without the federal government’s telling them no.  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,” he added.   

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Pascrell, co-chair of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus, will lead the legislation with Lance.

“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 directive from the DOT that said the blue lines could be confused with the blue color used to designate handicapped parking spaces.

"In addition to being a daily reminder of the dangers our brave law enforcement officers face, it is a small show of support to honor their hard work and dedication to keeping our community safe. I am proud to introduce the BLUE Act with Congressman Lance to ensure communities are able to take an easy and safe way to recognize the dedication of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

‘Blue lines’ have become a popular display some municipalities have installed on roadways to show support for law enforcement.

Working in collaboration with the Cranbury School, by way of a borrowed striping machine, that thin blue line was added to Main Street in early November, according to Cranbury Township Committeeman Dan Mulligan.

The line begins at School House Lane and extends down to Park Place.

“Police officers have one of the most difficult jobs anyone could have,” Mulligan said at the time. “They are not only here to enforce our laws and put their own lives in danger to protect ours, they are also, in many cases, the first responders to all life-threatening situations, from traffic accidents to sudden medical situations that arise in people's day-to-day lives.”

Police Chief Rickey Varga said then that he was “truly honored” and “very proud” his department's officers have been recognized by the committee with the thin blue line. He also said that the department has endeavored to work with residents through the years to identify and address the community's needs.

“From these efforts, we have earned and we share a mutual respect which is unique to Cranbury Township,” he said. “This 'thin blue line' symbolizes our bond with our community. We are all very thankful and humbled by this gesture of support.”

Since the line was striped, the department has received an “outpouring of support and thanks” from residents, Chief Varga said.

Hillsborough and some other municipalities have chosen to paint their thin blue lines on interior roadways on municipal property to avoid conflict with local, state and national traffic laws. 

The Federal Highway Administration recently wrote a letter to Somerset County and officials in other towns stating ‘blue lines’ displays are in violation of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways.  Lance and Pascrell,  members of the Law Enforcement Caucus, think that directive is an overreaction and their legislation will add an exemption to the federal manual that says temporary ceremonial displays can be permitted.