It is estimated that 2 million people could converge on Philadelphia for Pope Francis’ visit. You can expect traffic nightmares throughout New Jersey. The head of the NJ Department of Transportation said his agency was tirelessly working on traffic strategies and contingencies.

A train on the platform at NJ Transit's Hamilton station (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

In an exclusive phone interview he also said the NJDOT isn’t staffed with amateurs. They’re pros with a plan.

“This is not our first rodeo, so to speak. We have traffic whether it’s going into Philadelphia or it’s going into New York on a daily basis,” said NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox. “We have accidents that cause backups. We monitor all roads to make sure that we can make quick decisions, whether that’s diverting traffic or giving people updates in their car. We do that in snowstorms. We do that with accidents and we’re going to be doing it with the pope’s visit.”

You can help yourself avoid traffic nightmares, but you should act immediately because soon it could be too late to make the smart move, Fox advised.

“Use mass transit where you can. I can’t stress enough the need for people to use mass transit versus driving, but we know that we’re going to have a lot of people who won’t and we’re prepared for that. It’s important for people to buy (tickets) in advance so they’re guaranteed a seat on the train or a ferry,” Fox said.

There is plenty of room on the mass transit system now, Fox said, but that could and probably will change. He suggested that people plan accordingly if they’re heading into Philadelphia or New York. It’s a very simple equation.

“The more people we can steer towards mass transit the more people we can get out of their cars and there will be less traffic on the road,” the commissioner said.

There are several resources and plans for drivers during the papal visit. They include:

  • The website POPENJ.com;
  • The website NJTRANSIT.com/papal;
  • The use of electronic signs to warn of traffic delays;
  • The same signs would be used to divert traffic to a less congested route;
  • Mass transit tickets can be bought now at njtransit.com.

“Whether it’s the DOT, NJ transit and the security apparatus across the state, all those people are working full time and we’ll use whatever personnel we need to,” said Fox. “We’ve been planning for two months, at least.”

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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