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NJ town closes off streets to nonresidents during rush hour

LEONIA, N.J. — Leonia police stopped drivers off of Fort Lee Road to explain the new street signs that have made national news.

They read: "Do not enter. From 6-10 a.m. and 4-9 p.m. Residents exempt.”

The red road signs are meant to keep drivers who do not live or work in the town from using side streets to cut around traffic that frequently builds when there is an accident or incident on the George Washington Bridge.

“I was actually gonna turn, but it said do not enter,” said Jim Adamo, who was trying to get to a job site at a home in Leonia. “They look brand new.”

Police Chief Thomas Rowe calls them a low-tech answer to a high-tech problem. He and other officials say that when navigation apps became popular, their quiet residential roads became crowded with commuters who were being re-routed onto side streets in order to avoid traffic.

“We’re at the confluence of so many major arteries,” said Bill Ziegler, a resident and councilman. Ziegler said that the overwhelming majority of residents are in favor of the rush hour road closures because some have complained of being unable to even back out of their driveway when their street is clogged with cars. Officials were also concerned about how ambulances or fire trucks can get through.

So far, no summonses have been issued to drivers who do not comply with the signs. Right now, Chief Rowe said police are working at checkpoints and giving out warnings until drivers can get accustomed to the new traffic pattern in town. The fine for ignoring one of these new signs is $200.

Rowe also said that navigational mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze have been cooperating to help keep drivers routed on major roads. More than 60 residential roads are closed during rush hour under the new ordinance.

Residents or people who work in Leonia should head to LeoniaSafeStreets.com to register for a yellow tag that lets police know you are permitted to drive down the side streets during rush hour.