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August 05, 2015

Nutter announces massive road, bridge closures for papal visit

Private vehicle traffic will not be permitted to enter a 'traffic box'

Mayor Michael Nutter shed some light Wednesday on traffic plans for the papal visit, which is expected to bring 1.5 million visitors to a city of 1.5 million residents. 

But many details are still pending less than two months from the visit on the weekend of Sept. 26-27.

Nutter said security officials will enforce a three-square-mile "traffic box" in which vehicles can exit but not re-enter until the papal visit concludes. 

Private vehicle traffic within the box, which becomes effective at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, likely will include challenges to motorists within the borders.

Also, the Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed to all but pedestrian traffic beginning at 10 p.m. Friday.

"Be prepared to walk a few miles or more," warned the mayor. 

He added that "private vehicles are not viable" for getting around during that weekend. It has not been decided if cabs will be allowed to operate within the box, said Nutter.

Any buses registered with the World Meeting of Families will able to enter the traffic box and park in designated areas. Otherwise, only emergency vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian traffic will be allowed to enter from the outside.

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(Contributed Art/City of Philadelphia)

The box encompasses an area from the Delaware River to 38th Street in West Philly, heading east to west. Its southern border is South Street. The northern border runs, east to west, along Spring Garden Street, Ridge Avenue and Girard Avenue.

A timetable to reopen the traffic box has not been determined, but it could be as late as sometime Monday. Nutter said he did not know how quickly the crowds will dissipate.

Center City residents will for now be allowed to leave their cars parked within the box, though some exceptions will be announced.

PennDOT announced closures along the Schuylkill Expressway, Vine Street Expressway and City Avenue beginning at 10 p.m. Friday. Interstate 95 will remain open, but traffic will be diverted at some ramps.

The Schuylkill Expressway will be closed eastbound from I-476 to I-95 and westbound from I-95 to U.S. Route 1. City Avenue (Route 1) will be closed in both directions from U.S. 30 to Belmont Avenue. The entire Vine Street Expressway will be closed.

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A map showing the major roadways that will be impacted during the papal visit. (Source: PennDOT)

PennDOT says the road closures are necessary to effectively move emergency vehicles to, through and from the event. Thousands of buses are expected to be travelling to and from the events on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The Delaware River Port Authority does not yet have a set time for reopening the Ben Franklin, which potentially could remain closed until noon on Monday, Sept. 28.

There will be 1,000 state police assisting with security, joined by the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The School District of Philadelphia has not announced whether it will close on Monday, Sept. 28. It will close the preceding Friday.

Following today's announcement, the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 urged commercial and privately-owned buses and motor coaches to register via GO GROUND. Bus registration for the papal visit is a requirement for all buses, including motor coaches, school buses, mini buses, RVs, and passenger vans (8-14 passengers).

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