Rob Romano May 3, 2018, 11:19 am

New Jersey AG: Rush hour closures to non-residents in Leonia is legally invalid

Borough enacted travel ban because motorists were using local streets as shortcuts to George Washington Bridge


LEONIA – State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is telling the borough to immediately put the brakes on an ordinance that bans motorists who do not reside in Leonia from using its side streets to reach the George Washington Bridge during the morning and evening rush hours. Grewal is calling Leonia’s closure of 60 side streets during rush hour legally invalid.

Signs went up earlier this year when the borough enacted an ordinance which says cars from Leonia or cars with official business in Leonia are the only ones permitted on local streets during the times listed on the signs. Documents show the state attorney general's opposition to the signs going back to last March, when he first called Leonia’s new traffic law legally invalid.

Grewal said the same thing at a recent budget meeting Wednesday night, in which he reportedly cited a New Jersey statute. That particular law does not allow local municipalities to shut down local streets without the Dept. of Transportation’s approval.

Some residents say, however, the new law has improved traffic in Leonia.

"The legality of it I can't tell you, but as far as being a resident here and paying taxes and being able to control our streets, and decides who comes and goes, I think that we should be able to do that, right? Isn't it a free country?" says William Chemung.

Mayor Judah Ziegler has countered the state attorney general. He cites a 1977 Supreme Court decision and a 2008 New Jersey State statute that gives towns authority over local streets. He recently said to partners at The Record:

"There's clear legislative intent to give authority to municipalities... For some reason the attorney general's chosen to ignore that."

Weehawken has also followed Leonia's lead, putting its own traffic ban in place to prevent build up on side streets approaching the Lincoln Tunnel. The state attorney general is also calling that law legally invalid.

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Jersey City, New Jersey