Travelers not keen on seeing rest stop names dumped
By The Associated Press
Dec 10, 2007, 11:32

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. — Could Vince Lombardi, Molly Pitcher, Joyce Kilmer and Woodrow Wilson soon lose their unique place in New Jersey highway lore?

A disparate group of famous New Jerseyans that includes a football coach, Revolutionary War heroine, poet and president could have their names replaced at highway rest stops if state lawmakers decide to sell naming rights to the service areas.

The idea is part of a larger effort to squeeze revenue out of New Jersey's toll roads.

“It's just taking money from advertisers and putting their name up,'' state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Elizabeth, one of the architects of the plan, told The Record of Bergen County. “It's a lot easier than raising tolls, but there's no concrete proposal. We're looking at naming rights, and we're looking at development rights.''

Gov. Jon S. Corzine is scheduled to offer more details of the plan during his State of the State speech on Jan. 8.

Some travelers said they would be sorry to see the historical figures replaced by sneaker companies or soft drink makers.

“That's like taking George Washington off the dollar bill,'' Kearny resident Robert Morcilio told The Record as he munched on fast food at the Vince Lombardi Service Area.

A wall in the rest stop features a short biography of Lombardi listing his local ties and accomplishments, which included two Super Bowl titles with the Green Bay Packers.

Other notables with New Jersey connections whose names adorn the rest stops include Clara Barton, Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Edison and Grover Cleveland.

“Aren't we absolutely suffocated with the names of companies?'' asked Ed Smyk, official historian of Passaic County. “Is that going to persuade me to buy Adidas sneakers simply because they call it the Adidas rest stop? The rest areas were named after people so that travelers would wonder who they are.''