Massachusetts State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) is looking to establish guidelines for grieving families who wish to erect roadside memorials with a newly-proposed bill due to go to a public hearing on Wednesday.
Bill H.3407 aims to raise public awareness of driving fatalities and homicides on public roadways and offer families a way to remember the victims. The Joint Committee on Transportation will hear the bill beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Hearing Room A-2 at the Massachusetts State House along with 50 other bills scheduled to be heard, according to McMurtry's office.
"The bill's intention and origin came from just giving some grief-stricken families an opportunity for closure," McMurtry told Patch on Tuesday. "The need and desire for us in our culture to leave a memorial at the location where the last breath was taken, I understand that. I'm very sensitive to that."
If approved, the bill would allow families to apply for memorial markers to be placed at crash sites for one year. The markers would comprise a white-on-blue panel bearing the words "In Memory of (Victim's Name)" followed by the date of the incident being memorialized.
"They can move on from that point of tragedy to a more appropriate place of mourning, whether that's a cemetery or church," McMurtry said. "And they can move away from that very dangerous intersection. At the same time, it allows for public works departments, both local and state, a way of dealing with a sensitive issue."
McMurtry said the bill would establish guidelines that don't currently exist for the sensitive issue, and would provide families and local and state official a means of handling the installation and removal of memorials in an appropriate time frame.
"The intention of this is a temporary public monument to bring some level of guidelines, or some level of government involvement to a very sensitive and delicate matter to families and friends who are building these memorials and displays of flowers and teddy bears and tee shirts," he said. "This temporary memorial would justify that, and offer the public a somber reminder of some of the tragedies that occur from driving and/or homicides."
He added, "We've seen some of these very public displays transition from a bouquet of flowers or a moment or memory of the deceased to permanent shrubs and more continuous permanent memorials, which I'm not questioning or disagreeing with, but the original intention was out of compassion in helping government and loved ones establish a mutually-acceptable resolution."