The first total solar eclipse on the mainland since 1979 and the first to cross the width of the nation since 1918 is on the horizon. Truckers who are being dispatched through a potential nationwide traffic jam need to be prepared a bit more than normal motorists do.
From Oregon to South Carolina, millions of people will be flocking to the path of totality. Several interstates lie in the path, including Interstates 24, 35, 70, 80, 84 and 95. The path of totality is about 70 miles wide, so large swaths of surrounding areas may be congested.
For the most part, departments of transportation at states along the path have suspended construction to open up as many lanes as possible. Even states outside of the path have shut down construction operations as they expect a mass exodus to the nearest area along the path.
Bottom line: From Friday, Aug. 18, through Tuesday, Aug. 22, traffic is expected to be worse than usual in areas within a large radius of the path of totality.
Will truck parking be affected?
That’s hard to say for public rest areas. However, Love’s Travel Stops Spokeswoman Kealey Dorian does not expect truck parking to be overly crowded. Dorian said days are typically a slower time for truck parking. If anything, the lot may look more like evening traffic. Furthermore, peak travel season has passed and school is now in session, so fewer travelers are on the road. With that said, expect parking typical of evening hours during peak holiday season for the days surrounding the eclipse.
Land Line looked into every state’s department of transportation to find out what restrictions are set in place in preparation for the eclipse. As mentioned above, expect suspension of construction, heavy traffic and beefed up enforcement in most location. Below are other state restrictions being implemented.
- Stopping permits for all oversize/overweight vehicles from Thursday, Aug. 17, to Wednesday, Aug. 23, north of Colorado Highway 50
- Suspending construction on all projects from Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning
- Increasing Courtesy Patrol along North I-25 from one unit to four
- Strategically staging with CSP and local emergency responders along the major corridors to respond to incidents on the roadways.
- Closely monitoring traffic and incidents from CDOT Traffic Management Centers using traffic cameras and other Intelligent Transportation System devices
- Some sources are predicting from 200,000 to 600,000 more people will be in Wyoming for the event. If we assume two-thirds of those will be coming from the south, we could be looking at up to 400,000 more people on our roads over the weekend and Monday
- It is probably safe to assume that every north-south roadway will be affected, as well as many east-west highways like I-70 and I-76
- The Division of Motor Vehicles is implementing a “holiday protocol” for big rigs. Starting Sunday, Aug. 20th at 4 p.m. and ending at dawn Aug. 22 loads exceeding 10’ wide, 100’ long or 14’6” may not travel on interstate or state highways south of Lewiston.
- ITD is suspending most highway construction and maintenance Saturday through Monday (Aug. 19-21) where traffic is expected to be impacted.
- No superloads. Otherwise, business as usual, including oversize/overweight permits.
- Oversized loads will not be able to travel on Nebraska highways and Interstate 80 from sunset on Aug. 18 until sunrise on Aug. 22
- Many DMV offices will be closed in the area Monday as well. For an up to date listing of closures, please visit NCDOT’s eclipse webpage.
- Lane closures will be removed if heavy traffic backups occur.
- No overwidth loads will be allowed to operate anywhere in Oregon from noon Friday Aug. 18 to 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22. Emergency moves still require a permit. Other over-dimensional loads with permits, including triples, will still be allowed.
- Scale locations may be used for staging by law enforcement and emergency response vehicles. Available locations have limited parking and may fill up early.
- ODOT will not close any state highways around the eclipse, but cities and counties may close some roads or prohibit left turns at some intersections to help traffic flow.
- Nearly all ODOT construction and nonemergency maintenance on state highways in the path of totality will be shut down Aug. 18-22.
- Other construction and nonemergency work will be curtailed depending on the expected traffic impact of the eclipse.
- With hundreds of thousands of additional visitors expected in Oregon, fire danger will be especially high. Motor carriers should be wary of fire dangers.
- With no hotel and motel rooms available, rest areas and roadside pullouts may have people camping in place, which is a danger to safe highway operations and will worsen parking problems for commercial motor vehicles.
- Most fairgrounds are booked for events, so no large emergency parking areas are available to commercial motor vehicles stuck in traffic.
- Nonessential motor carrier staff are encouraged to telecommute, and traffic issues may delay essential staff. Please be prepared for extended phone hold times when calling during normal business hours.
- Nothing over 16 feet wide. That aside, business as usual for truckers.
- No oversize or overweight permits Aug. 20-22.
On top of all that, the Federal Highway Administration recommends following these tips to drive safely on the day of the solar eclipse:
- Don’t stop along the interstate or park on the shoulder during the event.
- Exit the highway to safe location to view and/or photograph the eclipse.
- Don’t take photographs while driving!
- Don’t try to wear opaque eclipse glasses while operating a vehicle.
- Turn your headlights on – do not rely on your automatic headlights when the eclipse blocks out the sun.
- Watch out for pedestrians along smaller roads. People may be randomly parking and walking alongside the roads in the hours around the eclipse to get the best view.
- Prepare for extra congestion especially on the interstates in the path on the day before, day of and day after the eclipse.
- Avoid travel during the eclipse or in the area of the main path if you can.
Stay up to date with traveling information by paying attention to each state’s 511 website and app. For more information about this natural phenomenon, check out Eclipse2017.org.
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