American flags can fly on Turnpike overpasses — but only 2 at a time
WOODBRIDGE — The New Jersey Turnpike Authority won't be banning flags from the highway overpasses. But it's close.
After getting pushback from the public and even Gov. Phil Murphy — who slammed the brakes on the flag ban when he found out about it — the agency has come up with a temporary policy to allow just one flag to to be displayed in each direction on Turnpike and Garden State Parkway overpasses.
Numerous flags went up on the chain-link fences on the overpasses in the hours after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and have remained there ever since, maintained by veterans and police support groups. Many are on poles attached to the bridge.
During the summer, the Turnpike Authority started taking them down citing safety concerns and replaced them with signs citing state code prohibiting the installation of any unauthorized sign, item or structure on Turnpike property.
Just before the 9/11 anniversary, Murphy asked the Turnpike Authority to stop removing the flags "until we can find a good way forward."
The resolution approved by the Turnpike Authority at its board meeting of Sept. 22 will allow only standard American flags but only one facing each direction. There are currently many flags on both the Woodbridge Avenue and Port Reading Avenue overpasses.
"While it would be great to have the bridge cover in flags, the fact that there's one in each direction is comforting knowing that we will remember people who perished in 9/11, 19 years ago," Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac told New Jersey 101.5.
Also in the temporary policy:
- Flags must not be on a pole or any supporting structure
- Flags must be maintained by an individual or entity authorized to display the flag
- They can only be displayed on an overpass that includes a sidewalk or pathway "for safe installation."
The Turnpike's resolution recognizes that the the Legislature is considering the flag issue.
Assemblyman Daniel Benson, D-Mercer, who condemned the Authority's removal of the flags, was pleased with the temporary policy but looks forward to discussing how the final policy will address long overpasses.
"There might be some room there where more than one obviously makes sense but there's got to be some bounds to it. That's why we put in the legislation that would be part of the back-and-forth in discussion as we move through the legislative process," Benson said.
His legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, D-Mercer, also covers overpasses on non-toll roads.
"Our feeling is let's just have one policy for everything. This way it's easiest to implement. Let's make sure the ability to so this is a very easy process that doesn't require an onerous permit process or anything like that," Benson said.
Benson said it's a shame that there was a problem with the flags after nearly 20 years.
"Things were working just fine as far as we're aware of. We're not aware of any accidents, complaints or otherwise," Benson said.
The bill was referred to Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.