News Release

CONTACT: Carl DeFebo
Phone: 717-831-7176
September 24, 2015

PA Turnpike Officials Urge Drivers to Expect Heavy Traffic This Weekend
Pope Francis visit to Philadelphia could impact traffic in Southeast PA and beyond.

MIDDLETOWN, PA (SEPT. 24, 2015) — Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are reminding travelers to plan for much heavier than normal traffic on the Turnpike and other roadways Friday through Monday due to the Pope’s visit to the City of Philadelphia. This historic event could draw record traffic in southeastern PA; motorists as far west as Harrisburg should prepare for stop-and-go conditions with a potential for more severe congestion, especially on the Turnpike east of the Morgantown Interchange (#298) and on the Northeastern Extension south of the Lehigh Valley Interchange (#56).

“The Papal visit is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and we certainly don’t wish to discourage anyone from making the journey,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “But we do want drivers to have realistic expectations about travel conditions in the region, to prepare for the trip accordingly and to use the tools we’ve made available to stay informed about what might be up ahead.”

Anticipate Slow Going…

Those traveling the PA Turnpike could encounter volumes similar to the busiest travel holidays, such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Motorists should expect stop-and-go traffic east of Harrisburg and south of the Poconos. The longest delays are forecast for the Turnpike toll plazas into Philadelphia and off-Turnpike on the Schuylkill Expressway (Interstate 76) and the Blue Route (Interstate 476). Allow a significant amount of extra time to reach the destination; be ready to use alternate routes. While no PA Turnpike closures are planned, some roads nearer to Philadelphia, including the Schuylkill Expressway/I-76, will close Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. If not destined for Philadelphia, it is recommended that Turnpike travelers consider alternate routes.

Get ready for the Long Haul…

Fuel up before leaving and monitor fuel levels during the trip; long-distance travelers should top off again prior to entering the southeastern PA region, where lines at the pumps may be longer. Make sure to pack a few necessary supplies in your vehicle like snacks, drinks and medications. Have a first aid kit in the car, and update old kits if needed. Use the service plazas before the Valley Forge Plaza — which is expecting long lines for food, fuel and restrooms.

Keep up to Date…

The PA Turnpike has partnered with PennDOT to promote new options to keep motorists informed during the Pope’s visit, whether they are bound for Philadelphia or just trying to avoid the area. Resources include a special website — — launched for the occasion. Travelers are encouraged to check the papal511 site before leaving, and to consider smartphone apps while traveling. Download 511 PA and Waze apps; use them both. The PA Turnpike and PennDOT have partnered with Waze to show road closures. Knowing what the conditions are up ahead will help drivers make smarter decisions about whether to stop, reroute or push on.

Some other important tips while traveling the PA Turnpike this weekend:

  • Call *11 to report emergencies on the PA Turnpike.
  • Passengers can use hashtags #wmf2015 or #popeinphilly along with #paturnpike to report incidents after they call *11.
  • Move stranded or disabled vehicles out of active travel lanes if possible.
  • Stay inside your vehicle if it runs out of fuel or breaks down.

“All of us at the PA Turnpike are committed to assisting our sister agencies, event partners and customers to help ensure a safe, secure and successful Papal weekend for everyone,” Compton said. “We’ve dedicated the resources necessary and maximized staffing with a focus on keeping travelers moving, providing the information they need, and quickly responding to and clearing roadway incidents.”

The Turnpike has bolstered staffing at toll plazas and its Traffic Operations Center and imbedded delegates at PEMA and PennDOT control centers; it will pre-stage some 50 tow trucks and standby buses across the system. The Turnpike has called in supplementary safety vehicles, maintenance utility workers and other road crews. In addition, Troop T, the State Police unit assigned to the Turnpike, will station patrols at key interchanges and service plazas. Tents and added restroom facilities have been set up to augment existing facilities at the Turnpike’s busiest service plazas. And the Turnpike call center will have extra reps on extended hours to answer questions for those calling the toll-free Turnpike line, 1-800-331-3414. Representatives will be available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 6 a.m. to midnight Sunday.