Push to Revive Jersey Blue License Plates Gaining Ground

The push towards bring back jersey blue license plates to the boardwalk and toll highway, circles and jughandles from Cape May to High Point, gain a bit of traction.

Without fanfare or discussion, the Senate Transport Committee unanimously adopted on Monday a bill it was presented last year revive the old plates that the state used exclusively from 1979 to 1992.

The bill must go through an Assembly committee and be approved in a full vote in both houses before going to Gov. Phil Murphy for consideration, but its advancement this week gives hope to anyone yearns for old plates – or, at least, a dose of nostalgia while sitting in traffic.

“I think we need something new and exciting. While it’s not that exciting, it’s at least new, ”said Jim Moini, a computer programmer from Bergenfield who runs a website, njplates.moini.net, devoted to the history and intricacies, as they are, of New Jersey license plates.

Three decades, same color

The old-fashioned blue license plate was common in New Jersey.

New Jersey hasn’t had a new plate design for almost 30 years, when the state rolled out the current Goldfinch yellow plates with black letters in 1992.

Compared to designs from other states since then – they include a trippy fresco in Oklahoma, a portrait of Dolly parton in Tennessee and a tribute to fossil fuels in West Virginia – New Jersey tags were some of the “simplest,” as Moini put it.

“The uniqueness of New Jersey comes from that hell of a color yellow and the ‘Garden State’” print on the bottom, he said. ” That’s all we have. That’s why if they offer it as an alternative passenger plate, I would put the blue ones on my car.

New Jersey offers a variety of “dedicated” plates with logos for places like Meadowlands and Battleship New Jersey, but there’s a reason its labels are largely free of the frills.

On December 8, 1989, Governor Tom Kean signed a law the creation of the Commission for the selection of reflectorized license plates, responsible for creating a new color scheme and a new reflectorized design “taking into account the needs of law enforcement and road safety, aesthetics, the cost and ability of the correction system to produce the new plaque. “

The purpose of the change was to have a sharp contrast between the background and the letters on the plates “to increase their visibility and readability at night,” according to one. commission note.

The five-member commission agreed that white was the best background for light and reflection, but too many other states at the time had this color. The “next best choice” was yellow – goldfinch yellow, to be precise, in a nod to the state bird.

But the plaques on the road today could have been very different and even changed the course of travel and shopping for vanity plaque trinkets as we know them.

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A long story

127432 BERGENFIELD, NJ 05/30/2014 License plate collector Jim Moini with part of his NJ license plate collection at his home in Bergenfield.  MICHAEL KARAS / PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHER

At a public hearing in 1990, then-assembler D. Bennett Mazur submitted samples of a plaque with a sky blue background, a white seagull in the center, blue or black letters and numbers. , and the words “Seashore State” at the bottom instead of “Garden State”.

The Bergen County lawmaker’s rationale for suggesting a shore-centric design, the commission said, was that the plaque should advertise an “attractive feature” that promotes the state.

The commission rejected it, saying Mazur’s design was inconvenient and prevented “rapid and accurate identification of the vehicle”. The commission also looked at the yellow backgrounds with green and blue letters and numbers.

After several auditions and a few not-so-scientific field tests that consisted of commission members shining car headlights in sample plates at night, the panel selected a label design they called “superior.” And which is omnipresent today.

These are Goldfinch yellow fading to a pale yellow background, black letters and numbers, “New Jersey” at the top, “Garden State” at the bottom, and a small New Jersey icon in the middle.

This design is also similar to that used by New Jersey from 1959 to 1979 – until the Jersey blue background and buff letters and numbers became a standard issue.

Old straw or blue tags can still be spotted today as New Jersey allows their transfer, unlike many other states that require old tags to be surrendered when new ones are issued.

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Next steps for blue plates

On December 8, 1989, Governor Tom Kean signed an act creating the Reflector License Plate Selection Commission.

Bringing back the blue plaques still has a way to go, if that happens.

The office of Assembly Member Dan Benson, chairman of the Transport and Independent Authorities Committee, did not respond to a message asking if the bill will be voted on in his committee, a necessary step before proceeding with a full vote.

And if passed and signed by Murphy, the bill requires at least 500 orders – and a fee of $ 50 for each request – to go into effect.

It could also be a short-lived resurrection. The chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission may stop issuing the plates if the average cost exceeds $ 50 in two consecutive years.

It’s unclear what kind of demand there may be for the blue plates, but one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Senator Kristin Corrado, said in a statement that “many New Jerseyans, especially fans classic car designs favor the vintage license plate design that gained popularity in the 1980s. ”

Joel Keller, journalist and television critic who lives in Somerset County, said he could see the enthusiasm of a certain type of driver.

“I got the idea: you bought a 1985 Camaro IROC-Z and you want it to look like it was in 1985, “he said.

In 2004, Keller wrote a hymn in the New York Times to Jersey blue license plates, about 12 years after they ceased to be issued. He had transferred his to several vehicles over the years and, he wrote, he would have “doe eyes” seeing the blue plates because “they remind me of a bygone era.”

But a lot has changed since then.

Keller, 50, ditched his blue plates for yellows in 2014, just as he and his wife were close to starting a family. It represented a transition in life, he said.

As melancholy as it is about the bygone era of the Jersey Blue Plates, he would surely shell out $ 50, plus the annual renewal fee of $ 10, to get them back, right?

“No, probably not,” Keller said.

“I like that the option is there,” he added, “but at the end of the day it’s a license plate.”

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Dustin Racioppi is a reporter at the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to his work covering the Governor of New Jersey and the political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @dracioppi

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