(LEONIA, N.J.) — Next time you’re traveling northbound on I-95 and your navigation app tells you to exit in Leonia, New Jersey, to skip traffic on the George Washington Bridge, you may find yourself $200 poorer. Effective Monday, the city of Leonia is shutting down local streets to nonresident drivers during rush hour.
The influx of vehicles creates a major headache for residents, according to Leonia Mayor Judah Zeigler.
“When there is a problem on the bridge or on one of the New York City highways, 12,000 vehicles utilize this same road during the same period,” Zeigler told ABC News.
Most of the main streets will stay open to drivers, according to the mayor. But the local streets are closed off to nonresidents during certain times.
Leonia Police Chief Tom Rowe told ABC station WABC-TV that Leonia had no choice.
“Three years ago we had a pedestrian [who] was run over when there were 90-minute delays at the bridge,” Rowe said. “On that day, there was wall-to-wall traffic. So, we must do this to keep our streets safe, pedestrians safe, keep our intersections open so that ambulances get to the hospital. It’s unfortunate we have to do it, but we have to do it.”
Some drivers are happy about the new ban.
“In the morning time when we have so much traffic here,” one driver told WABC-TV.
Others worry the measure might give the city a bad rep. “I don’t think this is the kind of community you want to be,” another driver said.
As extreme as it may sound, the measure is legal, according to Zeigler.
“There is a U.S. Supreme court decision from 1977 that gives municipalities the absolute right to legislate restrictions on roads that are under their control as long as those roads are open to all residents, and we, ours, are and as long as there is a public purpose,” Zeigler said.
The Leonia Police Department, with its 18-member team, will do their best to enforce the ordinance.
“Residents and employees of businesses or public entities in the Borough of Leonia have been issued yellow hang tags for each vehicle,” Zeigler said. “The police department will only be stopping people who don’t have these hang tags — no other standard is being used.”
But drivers need not worry for at least two weeks. Rowe said that at first officers will not issue summonses in order to give drivers time to learn about the new law.
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