Senate, Assembly Leaders Defend Blue Line Police Tributes

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ  – Last fall, towns across New Jersey painted blue lines on sections of roadways in support local law enforcement. In South Plainfield, a thin blue line was painted down Plainfield Avenue in the space between the double yellow from Maple Avenue past the municipal building and police department to the corner of Lowden Avenue. 

Last month, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHA) ruled that the honorary blue lines – painted in the space between the double-yellow lines – are non-conforming and pose a safety concern. As of press time, several counties throughout New Jersey have already received notices from the FHA recommending they remove the blue lines.

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According to FHA, the blue markings do not conform with the agency’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) because the shade of blue paint used is reserved to paint the lines on handicapped parking spots and the paint in roadways could cause confusion.

“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. For this space between the two lines to be discernible it must represent a lack of other markings,” states Mark R. Kehrli, director of the FHA’s Office of Transportation Operations, in a December letter.

The letter goes on to explain that, under Section 3A.05 of the MUTCD, the use of blue pavement markings is limited to supplementing white markings for parking spaces for persons with disabilities.

“The use of blue lines as part of centerline markings does not comply with the provisions of the MUTCD…” Kehrli states in part. “Blue as it applies to a pavement marking is exclusively reserved for the background color in the international symbol of accessibility parking symbol…and for the supplemental pavement marking lines that define legal parking spaces reserved for use only by persons with disabilities…”

The FHA’s ruling, however, has garnered support political leaders on both sides of aisle with Republican and Democrat representatives in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly introducing joint resolutions on Jan. 10 in support of the blue lines.

“It appears that the FHWA determination is nothing more federal overreach into a matter of exceptionally important local public concern,” states the joint resolution (SJR97/AJR136), which was introduced by Christopher ‘Kip’ Bateman (R-16th) and Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21st) in the Senate and Erik Peterson (R-23rd) in the Assembly.

“A municipality ought to have the ability to show appreciation and support for its law enforcement officers, including the ceremonial paining of a ‘thin blue line’ on roadways under its jurisdiction, without involvement or interference from the federal government, and this state will not sit idly by while the federal government threatens to encroach on that ability…” continues the resolution.

“It seems that, yet again, the federal government is out of touch with everyday Americans. A simple show of support for the men and women of law enforcement has needlessly been brought into question,” said Peterson. “I’m very confident that drivers are not going to mistake the blue lines down the middle of the road for handicapped parking zones. We need to let the towns decide what is best here.”

“This is pure bureaucratic blindness for lack of a better saying,” South Plainfield Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-18th), a co-sponsor of the Senate resolution, said of the FHA ruling. “Anything we can do to honor our police we should embrace.”

TAPinto South Plainfield also reached out to Assemblyman Robert J. Karabinchak (D-18th) and Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin for comment on this issue; calls were not returned as of press time.

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