Pope’s Visit Likely To Impact Beach Trek Next Weekend

OCEAN CITY – The Pope’s visit to Philadelphia may adversely impact attendance at next weekend’s Sunfest celebration in Ocean City after major highway closures were announced Thursday.

Pontifice Francisco, or Pope Francis as he’s called more commonly here in the states, begins his highly anticipated visit in the US next Tuesday, Sept. 22, with scheduled stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia.

On Thursday, Philadelphia outlined its plan to shut down major traffic arteries both inside the downtown area and some that could significantly delay folks who are coming to Ocean City for Sunfest from the north.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m., large portions of I-76, I-676 and I-476 will be shut down until Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m., and the Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed until noon on Monday, Sept. 28, according to officials. I-95 will remain open, but officials anticipate major delays.

Ocean City officials were sent scrambling to get the word out to Sunfest attendees, but remain confident that the timing of the Papal visit will not stop people from coming to Ocean City.

“It will definitely be an obstacle, but I think our events have been so strong recently that we will still draw a great crowd,” said town special events manager Frank Miller. “I think it’s great that the Pope is coming to Philly but we are going to do our best to be proactive.”

Ocean City’s Communications Manager Jessica Waters said the city will work to “get the word out” about the possible delays caused by the Papal visit on social media, the town’s website and the town’s advertising company, MGH.

“It’s not uncommon for people to sit in traffic for a number of hours just to get to Ocean City,” said Waters, “but the Pope’s visit could certainly create a real challenge for our visitors coming to Sunfest from the north.”

On Wedesday, the District Department of Transportation advised commuters in the nation’s capital that traffic delays and closures would be so significant that people should only get in their cars as a last resort.

Pope Francis will start his trip at the White House on Wednesday, and he will address Congress for the first time on Thursday morning. On Friday, he will, among many other things, address the United Nations in New York City and visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum before arriving in Philadelphia on Saturday morning.

“If people either can’t get through Philadelphia to get to Ocean City or decide to go to Philadelphia to see the Pope in person, I hope they have a great time, but we know we will be entertaining a big crowd down here at Sunfest, too,” said Miller.