Leonia closes dozens of local roads to out-of-towners

Posted: Updated:

Starting Monday, a Bergen County town will close off dozens of local roads to out-of-towners during rush hour.

Leonia officials said it is all in an effort to alleviate traffic for locals. They said too many people from other towns cut through Leonia on their way to get to the George Washington Bridge to commute to and from Manhattan.

Officials said navigation apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, will often bring drivers through town in an effort to avoid traffic in other parts of the state, creating heavy traffic on many Leonia roads, including Fort Lee Road, Chestnut Street and Howard Terrace.

"If you look down this way as far as you can see, it would be bumper-to-bumper on a Sunday night or in the morning,” said Leonia Councilman Greg Makroulakis.

Leonia residents will need to have a yellow tag on their vehicles as of Monday. The tag will let the Leonia Police Department know that they live in town and are allowed to transverse local roadways.

Sixty roads will now be for locals only, officials said. Those roads will show up as red on the traffic apps, to let drivers know.

"People who are normally using a GPS like Waze will not see these streets as a viable cut through to the bridge because they're out of play,” Leonia Police Chief Tom Rowe said.

Drivers who don’t live in town who are caught on some of the roads can face a $200 fine. Rowe said his officers initially will give motorists warnings, but will eventually begin writing tickets.

Some streets will be blocked by police, and four have been turned into one-way streets. Drivers with the yellow tags will be allowed on these roads.

Officials said the reason for the changes is that they are concerned that if something isn’t done, ambulances and fire trucks won’t be able to travel around the town.

"I think it'll definitely help. The quality of life will definitely improve,” Makroulakis said.

Officials said they spent the last two years studying the plan in preparation.

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