new pope boundaries
Robert Chen

Pope map revealed: A source says these are the real security boundaries (for now)

Updated 3:30 p.m. August 5: The Traffic Box: Mayor Nutter finally talks details about road closures for the Papal visit

Forget what you heard.

A Papal visit security map that seems to have originated on Reddit made the rounds over the weekend, purporting to show a large swath of the city cut off for the Pope’s late September visit to the city. The red and yellow map allegedly shows areas where no traffic will be allowed, and other areas where residents will need to show ID to get into the area where they live.

But a source involved with the city’s planning of the Papal visit and the World Meeting of Families tells Billy Penn that map is inaccurate, largely drawn from conjecture. As far as the city is concerned, no-vehicle boundaries will likely fall as such: Girard to Ridge to Spring Garden to the north, South Street to the south, the Delaware River to the east and 38th Street to the west.

Basically, “no vehicles in greater center city/ucity,” the source said. “That’s why we’ve been calling it the traffic box. No traffic.”

West Philly boundaries remain a bit hazy for city planners, but they do know a Pope fence will go up around the Parkway, probably from the Art Museum to City Hall, about two blocks wide on either side.

“Pretend it’s a blizzard,” the source said. “Nothing functions normally during a blizzard.”

Here’s what that would look like, with the red area representing the fence that will be put up and the black area representing the “traffic box.” Mayor Michael Nutter said August 5 that cars will be able to operate inside the traffic box, but once a resident drives outside the traffic box, they cannot drive back into the area with their car. That resident would have to either walk or bike back into the area.

The boundaries will begin Friday evening, and it’s unclear when they will cease.

These plans are tentative and subject — and likely! — to change, and are from the perspective of city organizers. In fact, more details are likely to be revealed this week. The Secret Service is running the security show here and has, since planning for the Papal visit began last year, been tight-lipped about road closures and other implications for city residents.

Mayor Michael Nutter held a press conference this afternoon about security for the papal visit and said “no official security perimeter has been announced or finally determined.” He was asked about maps on the internet and denied that any security maps were final. He said plans would eventually be released but did not give an estimate as to when that would happen. The most specific timeline he gave was “a few weeks out.”

Nutter reassured people they should come visit the pope.

“This is a once in a lifetime moment,” Nutter said. “We will perform well and do everything we can to make sure citizens and visitors alike will have a great experience.”

Another thing about rumors circulating: Our source says there’s been nothing said about checking resident IDs. Unless you’re a staffer heading into a secure area, you shouldn’t need to show one.

Papal event consultants confirmed to PlanPhilly that the Ben Franklin Bridge between Philadelphia and New Jersey will be shut down, and they’ve even made suggestions that the city should, for some period of time, shut down I-95.

It’s still unclear as to when these boundaries might be put into effect, but rumors have circulated that they could begin Friday evening after rush hour and last late into Sunday on the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27 when Pope Francis is in town.

Philadelphia residents have already been told to plan to walk miles in order to get around the city. SEPTA will be jammed and won’t run into Center City — the El’s closest stops to Center City will be Girard and 30th Street — and travel via personal vehicle will not be a viable option for getting around.

The Broad Street and Market Frankford lines, as well as the Regional Rail, will stop at only 31 of the network’s 280 rail stations so that all trains can be used in a high-speed capacity and can be quickly recycled. Special Pope visit passes or pre-ordered reservations for the Regional Rail will be required, and the rollout of the purchasing of those passes went poorly last week as SEPTA’s website was overwhelmed and hasn’t yet reopened.

Be sure to follow along with our post about what we know and what we don’t about the Papal visit. We’ll update that as we learn more.

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