WAZEy days: Judge nixes NJ town's "local traffic only" signs

Back in May, I wrote about a particular pet peeve of mine exemplified by some residents of Encino, California and nearby, suburban areas. California’s freeways are notorious for resembling parking lots more than roads, so many drivers use apps such as Waze to find alternate routes to their destination over surface roads. Imagine the horror of people in cars actually driving on the roads and cluttering up your quaint town. This had many residents complaining about the traffic and the noise and calling for a ban on “outsiders” driving past their houses.

The phenomenon wasn’t restricted to the Golden State, however. On the opposite coast, Leonia, New Jersey (population less than 9,000) was facing the same issue and they decided to do something about it. The borough elders got together and voted to put up new signs warning that during morning and evening rush hours, traffic through their village was restricted to “Residents and Leonia Destinations Only,” with violators being subject to ticketing and fines. This was done despite the fact that not everyone traveling through is heading for the George Washington Bridge. The roads through Leonia are one of the only practical ways to get off of I-95 and head toward other local destinations such as Fort Lee, Palisades Park and Linwood.

One angry commuter took the borough to court in February and now a judge has ordered Leonia to take down their signs. But thus far the town isn’t budging. (CBS New York)

A judge has ordered Leonia officials to take down controversial traffic signs designed to keep non-residents from passing through town.

Drivers headed to the George Washington Bridge are creating traffic nightmares.

The judge slammed the brakes on the Leonia’s law to keep side streets free of desperate drivers taking short cuts. He said while he sympathizes with the borough’s traffic troubles caused by New Jersey and New York commuters, the law left him no choice, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported Thursday.

“Approval has not been provided by the commissioner,” the judge said.

Borough officials are insisting they will keep the signs up while they work on both an appeal and a new ordinance to submit to the Transportation Commission. The latter sounds like a waste of time since the lawsuit against them was joined by both the state Attorney General’s office and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

As for the residents and officials of Leonia, my answer is the same as when the situation arose in California. Boo hoo. You have people using mobile technology and driving through your town rather than sitting in stopped traffic on I-95 for hours on end? They are not driving through your houses or commercial property. They’re driving on the roads. Those roads are part of a vast network connecting you with the rest of North and South America. You don’t get to block them off like some sort of gated community because you find it inconvenient to have commuters using them.

Leonia didn’t pay for the construction and maintenance of those roads by themselves. Those costs are born by state and federal taxpayers as well. If the borough had to absorb all of those costs on their own they would be bankrupt in short order. If you don’t like the volume of traffic where you live, move to someplace further out in the country.

Rather than entertaining this nonsense, the state should be moving to impose fines on Leonia for every day that they leave the signs up. The borough is not a kingdom with its own borders and guards standing at the gates monitoring entrance and egress. They are one small village in a larger county and an even larger state. They share the roads like everyone else and their own residents doubtless drive places outside of the borough.

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