Due to traffic congestion in Weehawken during 3 to 7 p.m., the Town Council adopted an ordinance in January restricting all but Weehawken, Union City, and Hoboken residents from making right turns from Hackensack Plank Road onto Pleasant Avenue, from 3-7 p.m. weekdays. The turn is often a shortcut for drivers wanting faster access to 495 westbound to the Jersey suburbs, leaving the New York area.
The route ultimately takes them toward highways such as the NJ Turnpike and Route 3.
The ordinance went into effect Feb. 13. Officials posted electric signs notifying residents of the change on Hacksnsack Plank a few weeks ago.
Union City and Hoboken residents with resident parking stickers or placards will be allowed to make the turn during the evening rush, officials said. North Bergen and Guttenberg residents were not included because they can go south on John F. Kennedy Boulevard to access 495, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said.
Officers will redirect non-residents wanting to make the turn to Hackensack Plank Road. But in the offset chance a non-resident makes the turn in spite of police presence, they are subject to a ticket.
When asked about a resident traveling to a doctor’s office, business, restaurant, or hotel in Weehawken or nearby towns, Turner responded that “if there’s going somewhere else, they have some other routes to use.”
GPS sending them there
The town noticed that the intersection has been seeing more traffic than usual within the last year, which Turner said was prompted by GPS navigation software Waze.
“Waze sends people to where there’s least traffic,” Turner said. “So it started to send people up Hackensack Plank Road. So within the last six to nine months, traffic on Hackensack has been getting worse and worse.”
It became bumper to bumper, Turner said.
“People can’t make the left turn onto Pleasant, you can’t go down Pleasant Avenue,” Turner said. “It’s becoming a bigger problem.”
With the Lincoln Tunnel nearby, traffic has been bumper to bumper.
Turner said the town began receiving complaints that emergency vehicles couldn’t access the area.
“Hackensack and Pleasant are the main entrances to the Heights section of town, and a third of the town,” the mayor said. “And as they all get jammed up, it’s tougher to get police, fire, and ambulance vehicles in. So they had to go through Union City or Hoboken in many cases.”
Officials asked police for recommendations, and they suggested the ban. It also forces out-of-towners to use main thoroughfares.
“We want to put the commuters back on the main roads, which are JFK Boulevard East and Park Avenue,” Turner said. “Park Avenue is a four-lane road that becomes a wide two-lane road with a center median. Get them back on the main two roads, and not where Waze tells them to go.”
With the nearby Lincoln Tunnel carrying around 150,000 people daily between New York and New Jersey, as well as planned construction on a Route 495 entrance at John F. Kennedy Boulevard, “you have to keep the roads open for safety purposes,” Turner said.
Weehawken is also working to redistribute traffic off of Boulevard East and Park Avenue by helping more people get on the nearby western 495 entrance ramp, in the future.
The ban is in a test phase, and is subject to change, according to Turner.
On Feb. 13, at the Hackensack and Pleasant intersection, two officers with traffic safety batons were directing non-residents to continue straight on Hackensack. They also pulled over some who made the turn without understanding the new regulations. But on the first night, police did not issue any summonses, Turner said.
One passerby mentioned that the change may be helpful for residents trying to access the Walgreens on Park Avenue more quickly, due to reduced traffic.
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