SOMERVILLE, NJ - Not even Tropical Storm Fay could make them go away.
Hoping to beat the soaking rains that would come later in the day, hundreds of motorists lined up outside the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles office on Roosevelt Place early Friday morning hoping to get inside and complete their vehicle and insurance transactions.
The doors opened at 8 a.m.; by 9:30 a.m. the rains came, but not heavy enough to thin out the crowd. Umbrellas sprouted up and down the line, with some sitting on collapsible chairs they had brought with them.
The tropical storm continued to drench New Jersey with several inches of rain throughout the day and was expected to end Friday evening.
At his daily press conference in Trenton Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy outlined a set of extensions to help ease the pressure on those willing to stand in line to meet NJMVC deadlines.
He also urged customers not to crowd or hunker down overnight at local agencies, which has been the practice in Somerville and at other offices during the week.
Expiration dates have been lengthened for driver’s licenses, non-driver identification, vehicle registrations, inspections, and temporary tags. Any documents that expired between March 13 and May 31 are now valid through Sept. 30, and documents that were set to have expired June 1 to Aug. 31 are now valid through Dec. 31, according to Murphy.
NJDMV agencies re-opened Tuesday after they had been shut down in March by Murphy's executive order issued to deter crowds and implement social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The pent-up demand created a massive headache for the 43 agencies in New Jersey, with long lines and waits of 5-6 hours to conduct business. Many standing in line for hours were turned away as the 4:30 p.m. closing times drew near.
On Tuesday, a long line snaked through a residential neighborhood adjacent to the Someville MVC office, down Roosevelt Place, around the corner on to Schoolhouse Lane and on to Fieldstone Drive.
Residents complained, and on Wednesday, the line was re-directed down Roosevelt Place on to the sidewalk that parallels Route 28 (Union Avenue). Today, as on Thursday and Wednesday, the line extended past the Immaculate Conception Cemetery and the Van Derveer School.
The MVC says employees assisted with 7,824 new licenses and registrations Tuesday, which was 15 percent more than one average day in the first quarter of 2020 pre-COVID. The next day saw 8,607 new licenses and registrations processed.
“Please, if you're told the agency has reached capacity don't hang around, don't camp out overnight…and please, while we recognize you may not be happy, by the way, I don't blame you, I’m not happy either, don't take it out on the hard-working MVC employees who are doing their jobs. They are our neighbors, and fellow New Jerseyans,” Murphy said Friday.
The agencies continue to take steps to mitigate COVID-19 exposure, working to prioritize customers it knows it can help in a single business day. Officials said new drivers who passed their road tests will be served first, followed by drivers who can drive under the new expiration date extensions.
All NJMVC agencies will be closed Saturday, July 11th. Beginning Monday July 13th, the offices will operate on a six-day basis, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.