The South Jersey Transportation Authority says they do not intend to remove an American flag that was recently attached to an Atlantic City Expressway overpass in Hamilton Township.

That announcement comes just days after the New Jersey Turnpike Authority received sharp criticism for removing flags from overpasses along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

Those flags were first attached to overpasses right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and have been maintained by veterans and law enforcement groups for, in many cases, the past 19 years.

When first asked about the NJTA's flag removal policy Tuesday morning on WPG Talk Radio 95.5, Gov. Phil Murphy said, "I don't like it." Later that day, Murphy put a stop to the flag removal, "for now."

Listen to Gov. Murphy's full remarks here:

Within days of this story surfacing, an American flag was attached to the fence that runs along the Cologne Ave. overpass above the westbound lanes of the Atlantic City Expressway in Hamilton Township.

American flag over the Atlantic City Expressway at Cologne Ave. - Photo: Chris Coleman

When asked about that flag, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the Expressway, released the following statement to Townsquare Media:

The South Jersey Transportation Authority will allow the American flag located at the Cologne Avenue Bridge overpass to remain in place. Currently, the flag is neither a safety hazard nor a distraction to drivers. The Authority believes the flag represents the resolve of the American people and is especially relevant on the anniversary of 9/11.

The SJTA's statement did not discuss what would happen if American flags began to appear on other overpasses along the toll road.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer) is planning legislation that will allow law enforcement and veterans organizations to display and maintain only U.S. flags on Turnpike overpasses in coordination with the Turnpike Authority.

Benson said, "I am gratified the governor stepped in very quickly and recognized that this was something both inappropriate and ill timed. I've heard a lot of theories there might have been other types of flags that people were trying to put up there or there were some other sayings. Clearly it is within the power of government to limit to that. This is not an issue of free speech or any of these other types of things where you'd have to open it up to all other sorts of insignia or flags or as many groups as possible."

 

With previous reporting from Townsquare Media's Harry Hurley and Dan Alexander.

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