Cumberland Times-News

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August 30, 2008

State Highway Administration confirms that roadside memorials to traffic accident victims are illegal

Workers remove crosses and other items when encountered as obstacles in the right of way

CUMBERLAND — Roadside memorials placed by citizens at locations where loved ones have lost their lives in accidents are not legal, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The agency’s Web site devotes two pages to the topic “Memorial Traffic Crash Victims” and is dated May 2008. It can be accessed at www.sha.state.md.us/faq/do/RoadsideMemorialLaw.pdf.

The information includes the statement: “Federal and state laws prohibit placement of anything on state property along state roads — roadsides, medians or in utility poles — except highway-related signs and devices (mile markers, guard rail, etc.).”

Charlie Gischlar, SHA spokesman, said Friday the law has been in existence for a long time and that the agency is “not doing a sweep” to remove roadside memorials.

The memorials are removed when SHA maintenance or mowing operations personnel encounter them as obstacles in the right of way.

“Our hearts go out to those that have lost loved ones in traffic accidents.

“We would encourage people not to do that (place roadside memorials), for their own safety and the safety of our workers,” said Gischlar.

The SHA acknowledged that there has been an increase in roadside memorials placed by individuals near the scene of fatal traffic crashes. The memorials include flowers, wreaths, crosses, balloons, teddy bears, photographs, candles or personal effects.

Citing its obligation to motorists to keep roads safe, the SHA notes in the Web site that roadside memorials are distractions to motorists.

Once the memorials are removed, they can be reclaimed at the nearest SHA shop within a few weeks of the time of their removal.

The SHA also notes on its Web site that roadside memorials obstruct spring and summer mowing operations. In some instances, a memorial may not be noticed and could become entangled in the blades of the mower and become a projectile into the roadway or potentially injuring drivers, passengers or workers.

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