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Leonia NJTiny Leonia NJ Roars

Tiny Leonia roars back at out of town traffic by closing off their streets.  Saying they’ve had enough, the town Council passed a resolution aimed at out of town commuters.  It bars anyone but a resident  from driving through it’s side streets during rush hour daily.

The Problem

Driving to work here is no different than any other major metropolitan center.  Traffic backs up because there are simply more cars than highways can handle.

New York City contributes to this mess too because the George Washington Bridge connects traffic to the Cross Bronx Expressway.  That is possibly one of the worst city throughways you can find.  An accident on the Cross Bronx backs up traffic throughout the entire area.

Driving to work is a challenge in all of our major metropolitan areas.  So we are not unique here in Bergen County.  However, Bergen County is one of the most densely populated Counties.  We have fully developed towns made up of small streets.  Small side streets are no place for commuting traffic.  This is why tiny Leonia roared back.

Leonia’s Unique Position

Leonia is located on top of the GW Bridge.  I grew up at 159 Broad Ave in Leonia.  We moved to Leonia because it was so close to the GW – our house at the southern end of town was only 1.8 miles away.  There’s really no place in Leonia that’s more than 2 miles from the Bridge.  This plus it’s great school district and decidedly quaint, small town feel is why my parents loved the town.  It’s truly small at only 1.65 square miles and 9,195 people.

My workaholic Dad loved being so close to NYC.  He bought 159 Broad Ave in 1957 when towns didn’t plow snow on side streets.  Broad Avenue was the answer.  Because it is a major local thoroughfare, it was always plowed.

This was Nirvana for Dad.  He could barrel out of the driveway onto Broad Ave, drive to Fort Lee Road and up the hill to the GW Bridge entrance.  He was at the toll booths in 10 minutes.  Traffic in 1957 wasn’t anything like it is today.

Today it’s a mess.  1957 was so different.  We had farms here and acres of undeveloped land.  Bergen County is approaching 950,000 people now and farms are a thing of the past.

There is also the fact that US 95 – known here at the NJ Turnpike and it’s extension – pours traffic into the George Washington Bridge. Because none of our highways were designed for today’s needs, traffic is often backed up.

The town says that 12,000+ cars choke it’s streets at rush hours.  Dodging highway backups, commuters used Leonia’s  small side streets.  Residents couldn’t get out of their own driveways.  Police and Fire Departments warned about safety issues.  Side streets are not engineered to handle rush hour traffic.  Children walking to school are endangered.  Fire trucks and ambulances can’t get through clogged streets.

The Results

Residents have said that they’re happy about this and that their streets are back to normal.  Other residents have voiced concerns over the legality of it and potential cost of litigation.

I noticed a big increase in traffic during the day on Grand Avenue.  I have a friend who lives on Grand Avenue.  She is not happy at all.  I guess if you live on Grand, Broad or Ft Lee Road it’s gotten worse for you.  Residents on side streets once clogged with commuters must be celebrating.

It remains to be seen if this will stick.  An attorney who lives in nearby Edgewater has just initiated a lawsuit against the town about this (Edgewater sends it’s high school students to Leonia High School).  This might become bigger than anyone thinks.  Leonia can find itself facing class action lawsuits and Friend of the Court Briefs too.

I wonder, as a real estate agent, what effect this will have on the market.  Managing problems is a positive while putting a focus on problems is not good.  Highlighting the fact that Leonia has traffic issues can hurt.  Seeing signs saying you can’t drive up a street all over town can hurt. Although this is a solution it tells potential home buyers that there are congestion issues.

Another possible negative is how this affects local shopkeepers.  Commuters sometimes stop to get a bagel, coffee etc.  Blocking commuters might hurt local businesses.

Leonia retains terrific core qualities – it’s a wonderful small town with great schools and a fabulous commute.  Any location with such great attributes will always be in high demand.  The current situation might cause a short lag in the market.  Time will tell.

So far traffic problems in town have lessened.  Side streets are no longer clogged.  Most residents seem to be happy.  The nation is watching this experiment because small towns near major cities have the same issue.  Leonia NJ is most definitely leading the charge on this.  Leonia NJ roars is more than a cheer at a a football game.  It’s a solution by a tiny town to their traffic woes.






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