Fed’s Previous Concerns Not Enough To Derail Thin Blue Line Effort

OCEAN CITY — The town intends to move forward with the painting of a “thin blue line” along a section of 65th Street in support of the resort’s police department, despite an apparent pushback from federal officials on similar efforts in neighboring coastal communities in New Jersey.

In December, the Mayor and Council approved a measure that began at the police commission level to paint a “thin blue line” in support of law enforcement on the section of 65th Street between Coastal Highway and the Public Safety Building, which houses the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) headquarters. Mayor Rick Meehan said the idea came about after reading an article about Ocean City, N.J. officials painting a thin blue line between the double yellow lines in the street in front of the police station.

However, it came to light the Federal Highway Administration has sent letters to officials in Ocean City, N.J. and other coastal communities where similar efforts have been undertaken, asserting that the painting of a blue line in the roadway could be in violation of federal laws. Specifically, the letters point to a section in the manual on uniform traffic control devices for streets and highways, which states the double-yellow lines on roads and highways should be kept clear of other markings including the painting of a blue line.

Uncertain of how the painting of a thin blue line on a section of 65th Street might be deemed illegal by the Federal Highway Administration, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) spokesperson Lindsay Richard said this week the city would likely revisit the thin blue line initiative in the resort.

“Our plan to paint a thin blue line on 65th Street in support of our officers is currently under review citing the recent developments in New Jersey resort towns,” she said. “There will be further discussion on this matter in the coming months. At this time, we have not received any correspondence from and federal agency such as the Federal Highway Administration or the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

However, later on Wednesday, Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters said Meehan had already voiced an opinion to move forward with the project.

“I spoke with the mayor about this today and it is his opinion that the town continue to move forward,” she said. “Our city solicitor is looking into the particulars, but the mayor strongly believes that the town should paint the thin blue line on 65th Street in support of the OCPD.”

Some of the concerns out of New Jersey appear to revolve around state or federally-owned roadways, but that would not be the case with Ocean City’s thin blue line initiative.

“As the mayor indicated, the road is owned by the town and he does not feel that there will be a problem,” said Waters. “He is extremely proud of the initiative and said that as soon as the weather breaks, the town will move forward to paint the thin blue line on 65th Street.”

After the idea was first broached, OCPD officials explored potential locations for the blue line and determined from the State Highway Administration (SHA) that the line could not be painted on any street or highway owned and maintained by the state.

After considerable debate, it was determined the best location was on the city-owned 65th Street between Coastal Highway and the Public Safety Building. The concept is the officers of the OCPD would see the thin blue line each and every time they arrive for work at police headquarters. In December, the council voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.