New Jersey

New Jersey Borough Solves Its Traffic Problem By Banning Commuters

Except on one thoroughfare, nonresidents will need to demonstrate a reason for being on the town's roads.


George Washington bridge, approach from the New Jersey side.
Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons

The New Jersey borough of Leonia has a novel solution to for its traffic problems: Ban outsiders from using its roads.

Come January, the borough government will prohibit all nonresidents from driving on Leonia's roads—save one thoroughfare—from 6–10 a.m. and 4–9 p.m., including on Saturdays and Sundays. (There are also two state-maintained roads in Leonia that don't fall under the borough's jurisdiction and thus aren't subject to the new ordinance.) People who live or work in Leonia will get a sticker to let police know their vehicles are allowed in the town.

That irks Dan Eldridge, a nonresident who nonetheless frequents the borough and will be affected by the new law.

"My gut reaction was just another example of outrageous government overreach. Using a hammer when what you really need is a scalpel," says Eldridge, who is often in Leonia to see his girlfriend. Come January, such visits will come with a risk of a traffic stop and interrogation from Leonia law enforcement.

Walling off the town to through-traffic presents some pretty startling civil liberties implications. The new ordinance says any nonresidents found driving on the borough's streets during prohibited hours will have to be ready to "demonstrate or document a need to access a residence on the street." Any nonresidents stopped by police will have to explain their reason for being in the town, and what business or resident they plan on visiting while there, or risk fines and court summons.

The ordinance does not describe what counts at a "need" or what kind of demonstration or documentation will be required of travelers to proceed on Leonia's roads unmolested.

Mayor Judah Zeigler says extra law enforcement personnel will be on hand to "aggressively enforce the new laws." This, Zeigler says in an email to Leonia residents, will allow "the word to get out that Leonia is no longer to be considered the cut through for the entire eastern part of New Jersey!"

Zeigler has not responded to a request for comment.

Given Leonia's location at the New Jersey entrance of the George Washington Bridge—which connects the state to Manhattan Island—the town sees its fair share of commuters making use of local roads. That has left a lot of residents frustrated, and looking for solutions to the borough's traffic problem.

Eldridge sympathizes, but he says the new restrictions go too far: "Closing off the entire borough with the exception of one main artery for these times seven days a week seems to me to be overkill."

Traffic congestion can certainly be a serious problem. There just might be solutions that do not involve turning local law enforcement into border guards or requiring drivers to carry papers describing their need to be on particular road.

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  1. Probably does seem a bit over the top, but if the city is paying for the roads then I don’t know if one can justify saying they can’t do this.

    1. the constitution, and by the way if passing through and buy gas or stop for food then you are also paying for the roads. this will be great for tourist, NOT.

      1. There are many practical reasons, and as people have said below, there is almost no chance the roads were only paid with local money.

    2. Every statist that says that only government could do roads because that’s the only way to ensure that a road’s main purpose – easy travel – is possible should be shown this and asked ‘how is this any better?’

    3. I bet if you dig deep enough into this law, you will uncover the sinister force that lobbied to push this through, and that has the most to benefit from this: Eldridge’s girlfriend.

      1. Must be the Koch brothers.

        1. Nah… Soros…

          Let’s stick around and follow this one for when the Law of Unintended Consequences does a Darwin on the mayor…


          Hey, I lived in NJ for 33 years… there are idiots, stupid idiots and NJ elected officials….

    4. It’s called “right of way”. A private road (yes, they exist) can prohibit traffic, and indeed are required to prohibit traffic at least once a year in order to prevent a right of way. But a public road cannot. A public road has a right of way.

      A municipality could construct a new road and then limit its traffic to prevent a right of way from taking hold, but it can’t do that for existing public roads.

      Not only is this settled law, it’s fairly old settled law.

      1. Funny, cause my town put up police state checkpoints on public roads intermittently, to stop vehicles at gunpoint to check papers and to check for drunk drivers, with no probable cause. Somehow that’s legal, supposedly.

        1. Blame the SCOTUS for allowing this “emergency” measure that has been in place for over 30 years.

    5. The “city” pays for the cops too.

      That doesn’t give them the right to refuse you 911 response if you use the roads too much either.

      Collective Ownership Of Economic Sector =/= Collective Ownership Of Rights

      1. Actually…

        You aren’t entitled to emergency responders. Whether we’re talking about police, firefighters, or EMTs, that’s not something the city has to provide. It’s something most cities do, but especially when you get to more rural towns you find them not doing so and instead contracting with another city or the county.

        Of particular note, if you live outside of city limits in an unincorporated area, it’s quite possible that unless you specifically pay for it, fire fighters won’t show up at your house. The real fun part is that if your neighbor (still in an unincorporated area) *does* do so, then the fire fighters will show and be ready to hose down his house while watching your place burn.

        1. I said “if you use the roads too much”, not “in general”.

          It cannot possibly be legal for a municipality that *does* choose to provide 911 response to its citizens, to SELECTIVELY refuse to extend it to certain people as punishment for their behavior.

          That would be equivalent to denying it based on the person’s race, or voting habits, or political speech. I don’t know what Amendments that WOULDN’T violate.

      2. Oh the SC has already ruled the cops don’t have to respond to 911 calls.

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  2. I’d be very surprised if this is legal. Most states have laws about public roads and rights of way that don’t let tiny dictators start randomly banning people. But who knows with NJ.

    1. Instead they have big dictators who start forcing localities to operate roads for outsiders

      1. The chances that these roads got built and maintained only with local money is basically nil. Local road budgets are heavily subsidized with state and federal grants.

        1. Federal grants are important here.

          The Federal government has taken money from me – way over here on the other side of the country – and then given some of it to this town in New Jersey. My Arizona living ass has paid for that road.

          1. So even bigger dictators make it OK?

            1. Only the biggest; go big or go home.

            2. Presumably the locality asked for that money. Or at least could have refused it.

      2. I bet every person who lives in that town uses roads they they didn’t pay for directly, too. I bet a lot of them would also like to be able to invite people to their homes in the evening without their guests being hassled by the cops.

        Lots of places have “local traffic only” signs on various roads. But requiring a permit to drive on the roads, and empowering the police to stop anyone not displaying a sticker crosses a line if you ask me. Anything that give police more excuses to make traffic stops is bad news.

  3. My understanding is that the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution grants right of travel into and out of the states. Granted, this is in and out of a city, but one would think it should apply. Either way, its just plain dumb.

    1. Travel? Yes. Travel in a car? Seeing as you bevy of laws and regulations regarding owning and operating a vehicle might very well price someone out of doing so, I suspect that there is no “right” to drive a car on city streets in the US. Paid-for privileges? Sure. But right? Seems dicier.

  4. Hmm lessee…
    Dick move? Check.
    Inconveniences a lot of people without providing much benefit? Check.
    Costs a fair amount of tax money to enforce? Check.
    Possibly illegal? Check.

    Yeah this just seems like government as usual.

    1. They’ll make money on the tickets to non residents.

  5. I know of towns in Massachusetts that close certain roads to through traffic during rush hour. It’d be nearly impossible to enforce a full ban though. A town would effectively need to exist in a kind of cul-de-sac.

  6. Does being lost count as a valid excuse? Because New Jersey.

    1. Ignorance of the law roads is no excuse.

      1. Unless you’re a cop. Then ignorance of the law (or roads) would be your best defence.

        1. Cops seem to be ignorant of common law that prohibits assault and murder.

  7. The ordinance does not describe what counts at a “need” or what kind of demonstration or documentation will be required of travelers to proceed on Leonia’s roads unmolested.

    I’m confident that the highly trained local cops will be able to distinguish the good ones from the deadbeats without much trouble.

    1. “You don’t mind if I check your car for contraband? No? STOP RESISTING!”

      1. I once asked a NJ cop for directions to a place that turned out to be very near. He looked at me like I was crazy and shook his empty head. This road was almost certainly in his patrol area, yet he chose to be an ass.

      2. “Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski!”

    2. Deadbeats are revealed through the liberal application of nightsticks, pepper spray, tasers and the occasional .40 caliber round.

  8. “My gut reaction was just another example of outrageous government overreach. Using a hammer when what you really need is a scalpel,”

    Or… using a scalpel when what you need is a new lightbulb, or some oil on a squeaky hinge…

  9. “demonstrate or document a need to access a residence on the street.”

    I was never a good chess player, but I have trouble seeing how this could ever be abused.

  10. Just have the governor close down the George Washington Bridge.

  11. law enforcement personnel will be on hand to “aggressively enforce the new laws.”

    But hey, most cops are ‘good’, right? Its just ‘a few bad apples’ making the rest look bad. Its not that their day-today purpose is to enforce the diktats of a politically influential minority no matter what.

  12. So can the state ban the locals from all but the city roads?
    How about impose a toll on all the state roads that connect to the town, and refund the tolls to all state residents but those in the city? Really, really high tolls.
    How about antifa blocks all the roads because government?

    1. Antifa would never block the roads in a blue state like NJ.

      If you think Antifa is anti-government, you haven’t been paying attention.

  13. Say what you want, but this is exactly the kind of fact pattern needed to mount a meaningful attempt to bring back the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

  14. The actual issue is that nobody wants to be in NJ unless they are on their way elsewhere. To answer the why of that, consider how pleasant and welcoming this town seems to be.

  15. Mayor must not be getting enough protection money from local business, else why starve them of customers?

  16. All I know about Leonia is the Vision and the Scarlet Witch used to live there.

  17. How does this even pass a groan (laugh) test? Isn’t this just the sort of restrictive zoning that was outlawed in the 1960’s? Yes, that was based on skin color, but what is the difference between that and basing whether you can be someplace based on where you currently live?

  18. There just might be solutions that do not involve turning local law enforcement into border guards or requiring drivers to carry papers …

    ??? ??? ???????

    1. Hey! How come you can comment in Cyrillic and I can’t?

      1. Becows in ze Mother Russia, board comments on you!

        1. I was hoping for something more along the lines of a cheat code or specialty HTML or something.

          1. I used Bing translator up there; microsoft character map does not seem to work. 🙁

            1. Interesting, Bing translator doesn’t seem to work now, either.

              I must have caught the system with its digital pants down.

              1. Oh well, I’m terrible at catching things with their pants down anyway.

  19. something something RIGHT OF WAY something something

  20. Back when I lived in IL the village next door, with a single through road wanted to do something similar after another nearby town built a bridge with the purpose of reducing their downtown through traffic in the morning and evenings.
    The bridge worked, and diverted a lot of traffic through this other village. (Small, high income, lots of equestrian properties, clout)

    Their plan was to basically to designate it as a one way road during peak use, except the permitted direction would always be reverse of the heavy traffic.
    Drivers would have had to go two miles north or south to avoid it.

    I don’t know if it was ever implemented because I moved away.

  21. Question: How much does it cost to get a replacement sticker for your car, and what is the punishment for selling those stickers on EBAY?

  22. Walling off the town to through-traffic presents some pretty startling civil liberties implications.

    Seems like a pretty libertarian idea though. If the town (and its residents and businesses) own the streets, they should be able to specify who can use them and who can’t. As long as they have a designated public thoroughfare, which they appear to. Should cut down on crime too.

    Private property for the win.

    1. If the roads were private property it would be.

      I don’t think there is anything to prevent the town from selling the roads to private neighborhood associations. Then the local people can control them however they want.

      I’m sympathetic to the argument you make. But the enforcement mechanism turns me right off. Giving the police more power to make traffic stops is never a good thing if you ask me. People with a legitimate reason to be in a residential area should not have to put up with cops checking on them. And asking for the address they are going to invades the privacy both of the visitor and the residents they are visiting.

      1. The question isn’t whether the gov owns the roads. The question is who owns the properties that they lead to.

        The whole point of public roads is to prevent people from being imprisoned in their property, or cut off from inviting whosoever they wish onto their property, by whoever owns the road. Personal liberty cannot possibly maintained without the right to transit private property as the landowners wish.

        Thus, if there is even *one* private property in this municipality whose owner does not agree with the law, the law is a flagrant violation of property rights and the NAP.

      2. Whether people have a legitimate reason to be in an area is irrelevant for this purpose as that is a public place. FYTW is the reason.

    2. This is not private property.

      And libertarianism does require the recognition of basic freedoms (such as travel) protected and supported by the state. Otherwise, libertarianism becomes a pure hypothetical.

  23. I really wish Virginia would ban out of staters from driving through here, or worse, moving in-esp those from DC, MD, NY, MA, and CT.

  24. I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. While the article doesn’t say why the town wants to do this, it’s clearly about rush hour commuters taking shortcuts. People who take shortcuts through residential neighborhoods drive like maniacs and will be very easy to spot. This shouldn’t affect the Dan Eldridges.

    1. In that case, why not just set up some speed traps in those areas and hand out lots of tickets to people speeding through?

      I guess that would piss off the locals who like to drive fast, and would deprive the police of new ways to fuck with people.

      1. Yeah keep them using the old ways with speed traps!

  25. Sounds like a stunt to me. But with a little road re-design, they could accomplish the same without passing a law. Just make it so that the “main throughfare” only has a couple of exits to the town and that those exits are far apart.

    Alternatively, I’ve seen weird roads in Virginia where lanes changed direction sometime in the middle of the day while I was on-site, so that whatever direction had heavier traffic had more lanes. Interesting idea.

  26. Any non-resident who shops for anything in Leonia needs to make one last trip to tell the managers of all the businesses they patronize that they will NOT be coming again until this ordinance is repealed. Residents who want non-resident friends to visit without going through police gauntlets need to call and visit the local officials to let them know the ordinance is unacceptable and they will be voting to remove any officials who support the ordinance.

    Freedom of travel is precious and must be defended.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  27. I wish people from New Jersey could be prevented from leaving the state.

    1. +1 Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier

    2. Well, you pretty much have to pay a toll to leave NJ at about 75% of the border crossings.

  28. This violates the Privleges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution, not to mention the 4th Amendment. P&I states “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” Basically, this could be interpreted as a state can’t just block off its roads to outsiders. These laws apply equally to cities/townships/etc… Of course the 4th allows search and seizure when “contraband” is in plain sight, so I wonder what their civil asset seizure laws are. This might be a great money making business for them.

    Doesn’t surprise me that the Mayor and all six council members are Democrats.

  29. Unconstitutional unenforceable, vague, stupid. Some lawyer will earn his retirement on a case that will arise over this. Not to mention the individual who sues for civil rights violation as result of harrassment as he passes through. I’ll also lay some pretty high stakes at some very long odds SOMEONE will raise the issue that at least SOME federal, county, and/or state revenues are given the city to help maintain their roads, signage, dirty coppers, etc…… and thus restricting non-residents from being there will be unlawful.

    WHY IS IT that the go-to solution for government is so often these days. a ove that clamps down hard on Joe Citizen and his RIGHT to freel move about, travel, associate, etc.

  30. If you live there your relatives are not welcome to visit. For some that would be a benefit.

  31. This could catch on here in northern NJ . . .

  32. Just build a fence around NJ, with no gates…….Problem Solved.

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  34. New Jersey? Oh, yeah, that’s the state that won’t let you pump your own gas, because…jobs, or some other ridiculous reason.

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