A New Jersey town in the vicinity of the George Washington Bridge closed itself off to nonresident motorists during rush hour Monday — and one lawyer is now questioning the move’s legality.
Officials from Leonia, population 8,937 according to the 2010 U.S. Census, closed its streets Monday to alleviate gridlock when there are delays on the GWB, NBC4 reported.
Leonia is situated near the western approach to the GWB, which is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge, serving more than 103 million vehicles each year.
When there are issues on the span that connects northern New Jersey and Upper Manhattan, Leonia sees a drastic increase in motorists looking for alternative options, officials said.
Mayor Judah Zeigler told NBC4 that “about 4,000 vehicles” regularly travel on a particular street that provides access to the bridge, but “if the bridge is backed up, we get 12,000,” he said.
Starting Monday, the Leonia Police Department closed “a significant number” of secondary streets from 6-10 a.m. and from 4-9 p.m., the department said on its Facebook. Major arteries Fort Lee Road, Broad Avenue and Grand Avenue have not been subjected to travel restrictions, police said.
Residents have been given yellow tags for their vehicles to be allowed to travel on the closed roads, and motorists who violate the closures could face a $200 fine. The New York Post reported that the town is giving drivers a two-week grace period before fines go into effect.
“Using Leonia as a cut-through to the George Washington Bridge will only increase your commute time,” police said. “Staying on the major highways will be the quickest route.”
But a lawyer from New Brunswick, New Jersey, told the Post that he anticipates the measure, which has left many Leonia residents pleased and many commuters angry, will eventually end up in court.
“Leonia is illegally trying to expand their municipal jurisdiction, and they are attempting to legislate on matters that are normally within the purview of the state of New Jersey,” Theodore Sliwinski said. “These new laws will definitely be challenged.”
Said Stephen Carrellas of the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association, “Even if it’s their town, it’s still a public road, and it’s still a tough nut to crack to claim that other people can’t use it.”