With proposed NJ law, GPS makers can be told to avoid your town
As the state's top law enforcement officer goes after a North Jersey borough for a recently enacted ordinance that blocks non-residents from its streets during rush hour, legislation introduced in Trenton would ensure other New Jersey municipalities have the right to make the same rules — as long as they follow the right steps and their concerns are found to be legitimate.
Under the measure, which awaits a hearing before the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, a municipality may request that the state investigate whether the use of turn-by-turn navigation systems is causing public safety concerns in the area.
If the state Department of Transportation, and then the Attorney General, determine an emergency condition exists at certain times of the day, the bill authorizes the state to tell the makers of navigational programs, such as Waze and Google Maps, to divert traffic somewhere else.
"These towns will have a process, a procedure they can follow, if they have an issue with traffic being diverted within their boundaries," said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the legislation. "You don't just close roads."
In January, Leonia introduced a $200 fine for non-residents who used its side streets during the morning and afternoon rush. The mayor cited traffic nightmares caused by hordes of drivers who were led by GPS systems through the small borough as they trekked to and from New York City.
Soon after, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal advised borough officials that they don't have the authority to implement such road closures. The state has since joined a lawsuit to declare the closures illegal.
Leonia officials could not be reached for comment on this story, but the mayor has said in the past that the borough's ordinance is protected by a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that suggests municipalities can regulate traffic on their streets, given they don't discriminate among residents and the regulation serves a public purpose.
The Attorney General's Office said it couldn't comment on pending litigation and would not comment on Johnson's legislation.