It’s Official: For Pope Visit, Ben Franklin Bridge, Schuylkill Expressway, 676, Much of Center City Closed to Incoming Traffic

I-95 to remain open. And there will be a "traffic box."

Pope Francis | neneo /  Mayor Nutter | Jeff Fusco

Pope Francis | neneo / Mayor Nutter | Jeff Fusco

[Editor’s note: This is a developing story, and will be updated throughout the afternoon.]

Mayor Michael Nutter has just announced key new information about Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September. Here are the main points, you hungry, hungry readers:

  • Large sections of Center City and the eastern half of University City will be closed to incoming private traffic, beginning Friday, Sept. 25th.
  • The so called “traffic box” will extend from the Delaware River to 38th Street in West Philadelphia. Within Center City, the southern border of the box is South Street, and the northern edge runs west to east along Girard, down Ridge Avenue, then across Spring Garden to the Delaware River.
  • Vehicles that are within the Center City box will be able to operate, so long as they stay in the box.
  • Vehicles will be able to park in the traffic box “for the most part,” Nutter said.
  • When will the traffic box be lifted? Nutter would not say.
  • I-95 will remain open. Select exit ramps within the city will be closed, but the highway itself will be open to through traffic.
  • The Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed beginning at 10 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25th, until noon on Monday the 28th.
  • I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, will be closed in the eastbound direction all the way from the blue Route to I-95. Westbound, 76 will be closed from I-95 to the Roosevelt Boulevard exit.
  • The Vine Expressway, 676, will be closed in both directions.
  • U.S. Route 1 (City Avenue) will be closed in both directions from Route 30 (Lancaster Avenue) to Belmont Avenue.
  • When will those closed roads and highways reopen? PennDOT would not say.
  • City courts will be closed from the 23rd to the 28th. The city itself will be open, but services will be limited Thursday through Monday.
  • Bicyclists and pedestrians are free to move in and out of the traffic box at will.
  • Will Philadelphia public schools be open Monday, Sept. 28th? Nutter would not say.

There’s also a map. An official map. The yellow lines are access routes for emergency vehicles. The green lines represent the  “traffic box.”

Still unanswered? Plenty. No news about the pope fence, for instance.

But the release of information today should help residents begin to get a handle on what they can and can’t do during the days the pope is in the region.

Before today, information about the real-world impact of the pope’s visit on the city has largely trickled out from unofficial sources, often creating more questions than answers. Word that the security perimeter would stretch from Girard Avenue to South Street leaked out at a Philadelphia Parking Authority board meeting weeks ago. A day later, a consultant for the World Meeting of Families said I-95 would be closed during the event and the security perimeter would be even bigger than what the PPA had said (relevant: that consultant was later “dismissed” from the pope planning process).

Then, two maps of the alleged security perimeter circulated the Internet last week. A rather irritated Nutter staged a press conference last Monday to announce that the images were inaccurate (as it turns out, the lines released on the formal map today look like a pretty good match for the map sketched out by BillyPenn last week).

Last week, he lambasted the press for reporting on the maps, saying, “At times, little people who have little pieces of information will try to put out what they have, what they think they have, in an effort to make themselves larger than they might be.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, Mayor Nutter struck a more conciliatory tone. “We are the chosen city,” he said. “With that comes certain duties … yes, we will face challenges for a relatively short period of time, but we’ll face them together, as a city, as a region.”

Sources told Citified last week that the Nutter administration wanted to unveil more details about the pope’s trip, but were unable to do so because of the Secret Service, which is overseeing security for the event.

The Secret Service has consistently said it will not publicly announce many logistical details associated with the pope’s visit until three weeks before his arrival.