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New Jersey town shuts streets to nonresidents during rush hours

Story by Henry Rosoff.

LEONIA, N.J. — A little town with a big traffic problem during rush hour is now taking drastic measures.

In mid-January, Leonia will shut down almost all side streets during the morning and evening rush hours.

The problem stems from people using Fort Lee Road to cut from the George Washington Bridge to I-95 when the highway is jammed. Inevitably, Fort Lee becomes congested and people navigate residential side streets with apps like Waze and Google.

“It’s difficult to cross the street, and it’s frustrating,” said Kathy Pecht, who often struggles to get to and from her home in the borough to the shop she runs in Leonora’s downtown core.

Police chief Thomas Rowe said traffic jams were rare until a few years ago when navigation apps became popular ways to get around traffic. Now, each Day presents a logistical nightmare for his department, he said.

“We will be closing 60 roads each day from 6-10 in the morning, and from 4-9 at night,” Rowe said.

That is essential most residential roads in a town of about 9000 people. Main thoroughfares will stay open, but unless drivers live or work in Leonia full time they will face a $200 fine for taking the side streets.

The side street blocking program will begin on or about January 15. The borough said it will work with Google and Waze to make sure the apps are aware of the change, and do not lead people astray.