As reported in NJ.Com, the U.S. Department of Transportation has opined that painting blue lines in between double yellow highway dividing lines is an unsafe practice and must therefore be removed. In October, many New Jersey towns painted blue lines in the middle of downtown roads to show support for law enforcement. The support at that time came in the wake of unprecedented attacks that were being perpetrated on law enforcement officers throughout the United States.
One New Jersey County asked The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration to weigh in on the legality of the practice. In response, the USDOTFHA stated that “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,” This opinion came from a December 8 letter from the Federal Highway Administration to the Somerset County Engineering Division who inquired about the practice.
“The use of blue lines as part of centerline markings does not comply with the provisions of the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways),” the letter states. The USDOTFHA says the space in between the double yellow lines should remain empty. In certain cases, black paint can be used “where a light-colored pavement does not provide sufficient contrast with the markings,” the MUTCD states.
It is our understanding that when towns first started painting the blue lines on county roads, local officials said they did so only after receiving permission from the county. There has been no response from either the County of Somerset or the Towns that have painted the roads as to whether they will remove the “thin blue line” that has been painted in-between the double yellow.
In the area of New Jersey where I am from, the center of a double yellow line is painted to mark a parade route twice a year. It is painted green in March for the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and then adorns the colors of the Italian flag in October to commemorate Columbus Day. This has been going on for as long as I can remember. The colors remain on the road for months; and as far as I know there are no complaints from either citizens, the Towns, nor the County.
However, I find it interesting that when the center of a double yellow line is painted blue to honor our Law Enforcement Officers we now learn that such actions are in essence “illegal” and should be deemed a safety concern. Really?
As we sit back on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, I want to thank each and every Law Enforcement Officer for all that they do each day of the year to keep me and my family safe. As I travel the State of New Jersey today representing many of these Officers I hope I see more of the thin blue lines on our roadways as a reminder to America’s citizens of the service these brave men and women provide to us on a daily basis.