EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — After being closed for more than three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission offices reopened Tuesday for in-person services and were met with lines longer than most popular Disney World attractions.

MVC officials urged customers to wait a week or more before visiting a branch as lines were expected to exceed capacity.

“As we reopen today, MVC agencies are experiencing extraordinarily high customer volumes,” MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said in a statement. “In anticipation of long lines due to social distancing restrictions, agency management personnel were pre-deployed to our busiest agencies, beginning at 6 a.m., two hours before our start time.

“Additionally, all of our senior staff in operations are deployed to agencies to help process transactions. While we understand the frustration of our customers in this extremely challenging and difficult time, our employees are doing the best they can to keep everyone safe and work as efficiently as possible.”

MVC agencies were scheduled to reopen June 29 but were delayed a week due to a new text notification system that required further testing. Road testing and vehicle inspections resumed last week.

The delays didn’t seem to deter eager customers from waiting, 6 feet apart, in a seemingly endless line that wrapped around the building at the township location in the Harbor Square shopping center. Some brought chairs and umbrellas. Others sat on the grass or perched themselves on the curb. One customer opened his trunk and tailgated in the parking lot.

Chanhi Chheth, 20, of Ocean City, got in the line of well over 100 people just before 11 a.m. to get a new license. He had lost his current license and didn’t know his driver’s license number to request a new ID online.

“I’m willing to wait max three hours,” he said. “It is what it is. There’s not much you can do about it.”

Jordan Hyer, 17, of Mullica Township, had been waiting for three hours and was only halfway through the line. But she came prepared with a beach chair to sit in, picking it up and moving it inches forward every so often.

She was there to get her learner’s permit.

“It just seems like people are just trying to close the gaps,” she said. “A lot of people left and went home.”

But she wasn’t going to be one of those people.

“I’m too far in, and I’m just going to wait,” she said. “I don’t want to come back.”

Aside from her beach chair, she also brought water and snacks.

“This is going to be an all-day thing,” she said.

Yaeko Breech, 22, of Pleasantville, was sitting in front of Hyer in a lawn chair her mother had dropped off to her amid her wait.

She was also at the MVC to get her learner’s permit and was willing to wait hours to do so.

“I need to get it done right away,” she said with a laugh. “There’s going to be long lines all week.”

She didn’t bring any snacks for the wait but had ordered food to be delivered to her place in line.

“I’m about to get my DoorDash now,” she said. “I’m hungry.”

But just before noon, police alerted about 75% of the line that they most likely weren’t going to get into the branch Tuesday, even after waiting several hours to get in the door, according to one person who waited for more than three hours.

Lines were dispersed at certain branches around the state as they violated the governor’s executive order, which limits outdoor gatherings to 500 people, MVC spokesperson William Connolly said. In other locations, the lines were capped based on the agency’s capacity and customers were sent home.

Galloway Township resident Cheryl McCarty and her 17-year-old son, Devin, were among the lucky ones who reached the front of the line before it was dispersed. They got in line at 6:45 a.m. for Devin to get his license. There was already a line around the building when they pulled up.

Devin was supposed to get his license on his 17th birthday in late March and has been anxiously waiting the MVC’s reopening.

The McCartys reached the front of the line about 9 a.m. when they filled out a card, were assigned a number and entered their cellphone number to receive text alerts from the MVC. The text would alert them when their number was called so they could go into the branch to complete their transaction.

After receiving their numbers, dozens of customers waited to the right of the MVC’s entrance, waiting to be called in. The McCartys waited an additional two hours after receiving their call number.

Cheryl was also told the credit card system was down and the branch was only accepting cash.

“Some of (Devin’s) friends came with no cash, so I was giving them cash,” she said. “(The license) is $6, just get your license.”

Just after 11 a.m., Cheryl received a text alert saying the branch was “almost ready” to call her number.

“They did tell some of the people that they may have to come back tomorrow,” she said. “But we are going to wait. We’re this close, they called 52 and we’re 68.”

And they waited. Devin, who passed his road test last week, was determined to get his license.

“I was expecting it to be like a two-hour wait, not an all-day thing,” he said. “I had plans today, but those plans are kind of canceled now. But I’m getting that license. I can’t wait.”

Contact: 609-272-7239

CFairfield@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_CJ

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