In preparation for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is shutting down parts of three major highways and utilizing the National Guard, Bucks County Courier Times reported. The road closures are necessary for public safety, the governor said, and will span the length of 30 miles.
Sections of U.S. Route 1 and Interstate 76 and 676 will be closed beginning at 10 p.m. local time on Sept. 25, officials said. Vehicles will also be restricted from entering a three square mile zone in downtown Philadelphia beginning at 6 p.m. on Sept. 25. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia urged buses to register with the World Meeting of Families to ensure a paid, assigned parking spot for the papal visit.
The Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects New Jersey to downtown Philadelphia, will be restricted to vehicles from 10 p.m. on Sept. 25 until noon on Sept. 28. The PATCO Speed Line rail service will continue running across the bridge, and pedestrians will not be restricted from crossing. As the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia gets closer, more local roads might be closing, according to Wolf.
— Philly.com (@phillydotcom) August 6, 2015
The number of National Guard members that will be enforcing the traffic restrictions has not been determined yet, but there will be 1,000 state police on hand. Two million visitors are estimated to be visiting the city for the Pope’s visit, and electronic billboards from Baltimore to Scranton, Pennsylvania have advised drivers to avoid Philadelphia during the Pope’s visit.
“You might want to treat the pope’s visit like an approaching snowstorm,” said Jana Tidwell, public affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Bucks County Courier Times reported. “Make sure you get everything you need from the grocery store ahead of time and stock up on DVDs and video games too.”
The Pope will be visiting Philadelphia for this year’s World Meeting of Families, which will be taking place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis and celebration, and it seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to understand the importance marriage and family have to society.
Along with the World Meeting of Families, the Pope’s itinerary for the trip includes visits to the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Independence Mall, the Festival of Families and the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. He will be arriving in Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and departing for Rome on Sept. 27.