How much is the Pope visit costing NJ? No one really knows
So what's all the Pope's visit costing New Jersey?
No one really seems to know.
There's little doubt it's substantial — with state and local authorities dealing with anticipated heavy road and transit travel in and out of New York, and then Philadelphia.
Officials have braced for thousands of people to walk from Camden to Philly, making 8,000 parking passes available and promising enough police manpower for a safe corridor to and across the closed-for-the-weekend Ben Franklin Bridge. It's a matter for local and state police, for EMS, for DPWs and for a host of other emergency and logistical services.
"It's a big number, but I wish I could tell you more," said Camden City spokesman Vincent Basara.
That's the sentiment echoed by officials at multiple levels of municipal and state government — the Pope's visit is costly, but how costly is anyone's guess.
"I will tell you this," Basara said. "We're fronting the costs. It's coming out of our pockets."
That's in contrast to Philadelphia, where the World Meetings of Families is expected to reimburse the city $12 million for costs associated with the Pope's visit there.
Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen anticipated hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime for police alone. But he couldn't offer anything more specific than that ballpark estimate.
"It's ultimately going to be an all-hands-on-deck situation," he said. It's a process that's been more than a year in the making — but plans have changed often, and the logistical coordination has changed with it, he said.
Camden County Friday activated its joint operations center, with 25 different agencies working together — "everything from the FBI to local fire departments."
"I think it's pretty safe to say this is a manpower-intensive exercise," Keashen said.
But he said "It's going to be really hard to wrap our heads around costs at this point in time."
A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie's office said he didn't have information to offer about various costs to the state and local governments.
A spokesman for the Delaware River Port Authority, which runs the Ben Franklin Bridge, hasn't yet returned a message seeking information about its anticipated costs or lost toll revenue. NJ 101.5 is awaiting returned calls from New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness as well.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro said he didn't know about any projections for costs — "but the one thing I do understand is that some of the costs for NJDOT are eligible for federal reimbursement."
"Once the event is over, we'll have a better sense of what resources were needed over the course of the weekend," he said.
Friday, there were early indications crowds might not be as overwhelming for the Pope's visit to Philadelphia as once anticipated. Only a few hundred of the 8,000 Waterfront parking passes had been sold. And travel to and from New York City in the hours leading to Pope Francis' Mass at Madison Square Garden was below average for this time of year.
Basara said he's optimistic Camden City businesses will reap benefits as people make their way yo Philadelphia via his city, either on foot, on trains or by ferry.
"All of the businesses are open," he said. "We hope that some of these folks, these pilgrims that come to the city, will patronize the businesses and the restaurants. But it's hard to predict. We won't know until folks arrive. We'll all see what happens."
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