Leonia plans to reintroduce traffic ordinances that keep commuters off side streets

LEONIA, N.J. -- A Superior Court judge found traffic ordinances that ban commuters from Leonia's local roads are "invalid" but the borough's mayor plans to introduce new ordinances to regulate traffic on side streets.

"We can’t sit by and do nothing," Mayor Judah Zeigler said. "We’re going to be proactive again and change these ordinances in a way that clearly complies with the judge's ruling."

In 2017, Leonia posted signs that said: "Do not enter" and "Residents only." They dictated that from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., specific roads were open to residents only or those driving to a Leonia destination. People who may be trying to get around highway traffic were not welcome.

The mayor said back-ups on the George Washington Bridge can cause navigation apps to direct commuters through Leonia side streets, stirring concerns about public safety.

Some protested the road rules, arguing that they stifled local businesses.

Jacqueline Rosa, an attorney and a commuter, used to use one of the closed roads to get to work. She filed a lawsuit and the New Jersey attorney general later joined her complaint against the borough.

The attorney general argued that “Leonia did not have legal authority to adopt the ordinances… [and] failed to submit the ordinances for approval by the Commissioner of the State of New Jersey Department of Transportation…”

Zeigler said he plans to introduce a new ordinance that pertains only to local roads and another that pertains to local roads adjacent to state roads, namely Grand Avenue. Zeigler said they'll request the Department of Transportation's permission to enforce the commuter traffic ban near state roads.

"We’re not gonna start rushing around taking signs down," said Zeigler, who also added that the borough may file an appeal and a stay to the judge's order.

Rosa, though, said "this is a battle they cannot win."

The mayor plans to introduce the new ordinances at next Wednesday's Council meeting. He anticipates they will be passed by mid-September.