LEONIA, N.J. (AP) — A town that recently banned nonresident drivers from using its side streets as a shortcut to the busy George Washington Bridge into New York will replace imposing "Do Not Enter" signs with more welcoming versions, in an effort to lessen confusion and allay fears of local business owners.
Leonia Mayor Judah Zeigler said the new signs will be more understated and "business friendly."
In January, Leonia began closing 60 residential side streets to nonresident commuter traffic in response to thousands of drivers being routed through the town by navigation apps when traffic is tied up at the bridge, the world's busiest.
At least one person has sued the town over the restrictions, and a group planned to march in protest Thursday.
The signs will still have information about side streets only being open to residents and visitors of Leonia destinations during rush hour times.
It' believed the original "Do Not Enter" signs — which include the words "residents exempt" — are "scaring some non-residents, and they're worried that they're not able to shop or dine at their favorite Leonia destinations," Zeigler said in an email.
"Because of this, we're going to be replacing these signs with less menacing signs simply communicating that, during peak drive periods, our side streets are open to residents and those visiting Leonia destinations," he said.
Zeigler said the new signs will be installed as soon as they are received. The plan is for them to say, "Residents and Leonia Destinations Only."
"We said from the beginning that we would closely and continuously monitor the plan, and if any unintended negative consequences were discovered, that we would quickly address these," he said. "Our retailers are telling us that they're seeing a negative impact, and while it's very early, we are making these revisions anyway."
Town officials have said the decision to put in the restrictions has been years in the making, and prompted by the significant increase in the use of the navigation apps. Police Chief Thomas Rowe said last month studies have shown more than 2,000 vehicles often pass through town from just one of the three exits off Interstate 95. The town has about 9,200 residents and a police force of 18.
Other towns have taken similar steps. Fremont, California, north of San Jose, implemented turn restrictions during commuting hours, and several towns in the Boston area have redirected traffic or are seeking permission to do so.
Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com