Officials: Major Roads, Ben Franklin Bridge To Close Weekend Of Papal Visit
By Kristina Dougherty, Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Ben Franklin Bridge and other major roadways throughout the city will be closed the weekend of the papal visit in September, Mayor Michael Nutter and state officials announced during a press conference on Wednesday.
Leslie Richards, of PennDOT, reported the following roads will be closed beginning Friday, September 25 at 10 p.m.:
• I-76 eastbound from I-476 to I-95 and I-76 westbound from I-95 to U.S. Route 1 (Roosevelt Extension);
• I-676 in both directions from I-76 to I-95;
• U.S. Route 1 in both directions from U.S. 30 to Belmont Avenue.
Officials added, "contrary to previous reports, I-95 will remain open to traffic with only selected ramps closed due to street closures within the city and security needs."
"This is necessary for public safety," Richards said, "and for the large number of buses traveling to this event."
DRPA CEO, John Hanson, announced the Ben Franklin Bridge will close in the evening of Friday, September 25 and will not reopen until sometime in the afternoon of Monday, September 28.
All of Center City and Fairmount, as well as a big portion of West Philadelphia, will fall within what's called a traffic box in which cars will be able to leave during the papal weekend, but not return. Mayor Nutter unveiled this perimeter, lined in green on a large map (above).
READ: Complete CBS Philly Papal Visit 2015 Coverage
"If you're in the green area, you can move around within," the mayor said. "But if your across (the border) in any of the four directions with a vehicle, you have to leave the vehicle somewhere else. You can come back."
Pedestrians and bicyclists will be allowed to enter and leave the traffic box without restriction. This traffic box covers about three square miles. It runs river to river, from South Street to Spring Garden Street and Ridge Avenue. The West Philadelphia portion of the traffic box runs west to 38th Street. Nutter said there was little choice but to impose these restrictions.
"It really is about crowd control and public safety," he said. "And the ability to maintain some semblance of security and order in an environment where there are going to be a lot of people."
The issue, Nutter said, was the belief that cars would pose a danger to the many of those coming to see the pope -- walking to the (Ben Franklin) Parkway on foot.
"It's really going to be hard in some areas for folks to drive anywhere if hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people are just in the street," the mayor added. "It's a bit of a dangerous mix."
City officials are consulting with businesses within the traffic box to find ways to meet their needs.
"There is an outreach effort to talk with them about their particular needs," Nutter said, "whether it's staff or employees, deliveries."
Additionally, Marcus Brown of Pennsylvania State Police says about 1,100 state troopers will be assisting with crowd management and traffic control, along with K-9s and aviation and bomb protection units.
State Police will also offer the National Guard's assistance.
Mayor Nutter said they are expecting "north of one million people" during the World Meeting of Families and papal visit.
Listen to the entire press conference in this CBS Philly podcast:
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