Heartland leaders prepare for eclipse traffic

(KFVS) - During the eclipse, officials say traffic could get pretty bad. However, they've been getting ready.

"This has certainly been an event that we've had to pull out all stops," Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams said. "I think we've got a really good plan and we're prepared for it."

"I mean, people need to pay extra attention," Sergeant Amber Ronketto with the Carbondale Police Department said.

Seargent Amber Ronketto with the Carbondale Police Department said the city is planning big around the eclipse, expecting tens of thousands of people downtown for the festivities.

"There's going to be a lot of pedestrians walking around, a lot of people not familiar with Carbondale that may not necessarily know where they are going that may step out into traffic inadvertently," Sgt. Ronketto said. "Just keep an extra eye out on those pedestrians."

Ronketto said planning ahead isn't just something cities should do, but every day people should too.

"Yeah, if they've got something to do and they're not going to participate in the eclipse day events, I'd say get that done a few days early," she said.

SIU student Shane Laughland agreed.

"I do think that's a good idea," Laughland said. "Get all your running done before it comes because I think the roads are going to be pretty rough to travel."

Laughland believed not only will the roads be bad, but the parking lots will be too

"I'm worried about being able to park on campus because I don't think that there will be spots," Laughland said. "If I have to ill park on the sidewalk because you know, I got to get to work."

"We've dedicated three remote parking lots that will have shuttles operating about 15 hours a day that will take passengers to and from our downtown," Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams said. "We hope that providing cheap parking with a shuttle that it will encourage folks not to come into downtown and further congestion issues."

Union County sheriff Scott Harvel plans to double up on staffing, and get some help from the local ambulance and fire departments. The sheriff said all of his officers will be out watching traffic to make sure it runs smoothly. If things get backed up with the events local businesses are planning, the sheriff said he will have someone out directing traffic.

Both the Illinois Department of Transportation and Missouri Department of Transportation have both been working local agencies to help make things smoother surrounding the eclipse, and offer these tips for drivers.

Missouri Department of Transportation:

  • Don’t stop along the interstate and no parking on the shoulder.
  • Avoid travel during the eclipse or in the area of the main path if you can.
  • Plan ahead and allow extra travel time to reach your viewing location.
  • Watch out for extra pedestrians along smaller roads. People may be randomly parking and walking alongside roads in the hour before the total eclipse to get the best viewing.
  • Turn your headlights on and do not rely on your auto headlights.
  • Prepare for extreme congestion after the eclipse and consider staying at your viewing location to avoid the heavy amounts of exiting traffic from events.
  • Please exit the highway to stop and view and/or photograph the solar eclipse.
  • If you have a minor crash on the eclipse day, please exit the highway to exchange insurance information. MO law requires vehicles to get out of the driving lanes when involved in a minor crash with no injuries.
  • Don’t wear “eclipse glasses” while you’re driving.
  • Don’t take photographs while driving.
  • Check traffic conditions on MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map. MoDOT’s Traveler Map is also available as a free app for iPhones and Androids by searching for “MoDOT” in the app store.

Illinois Department of Transportation:

"Our crews will be on standby and ready if needed (for example, if they need to establish any unplanned detours) and will be providing travel information via our Digital Message Signs to set expectations for safe and timely travel. Closer to the event, we will be stressing some common sense travel tips with the general public, even in areas where the eclipse is partial. We want to be sure people plan ahead, expect crowds and longer travel times, not park anywhere they shouldn't to view the eclipse, especially on the side of the road, not take photos of the eclipse or wear the eclipse-viewing glasses while driving, and keep headlights on when traveling during the eclipse."

"We'll have extra officers on hand to assist with the increase of people coming to view the eclipse," Lt. Brad Smith with Cape Girardeau Police Department said.

Lt. Smith said for the most part he does not expect much congestion over the weekend leading up to the eclipse, or on the day of the eclipse, but there will still be some detours near the eclipse event in Cape.

"There will be some temporary closures on Kingshighway going northbound, just to allow traffic to leave the Sports Complex area," Lt. Smith said. "Traffic coming southbound on Kingshighway from like center junction and Jackson well divert traffic to the driving lane, which will allow the people leaving the event to use the passing lane to travel southbound on Kingshighway."

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet:

Officials urge anyone who plans to travel to western Kentucky to see the eclipse to make plans now. Traffic engineers and police agencies are preparing for up to 500,000 visitors flocking to 10 Kentucky counties along the center line of the eclipse corridor.

According to Wade Clements, KYTC District 2 chief engineer, the best approach for visitors is to come early, select a specific viewing area, be prepared to stay put and be willing to hang around until the initial wave of departing traffic clears.

Eclipse chasers are expected to start arriving in the area around Friday, Aug. 18 and continue to filter in with a final surge on the morning of the eclipse.

KYTC suggests visitors do their part by planning a specific place to watch the eclipse, ideally one that has adequate parking, good access to rest rooms and with restaurants or other food sources within walking distance. In addition, visitors should bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellant.

Officials offer the following tips for eclipse visitors:

  • Be prepared for hot weather. Temps in mid-to-late-August can be in the 90s
  • Bring plenty of water - about a gallon a day per person
  • Bring sunscreen, insect repellant and first aid items
  • Bring picnic or snack items. Restaurants and grocery stores my experience long lines
  • Pick a viewing location with rest rooms and easy access to restaurants or other sources of food
  • Do not stop along highways. Vehicles on the shoulder hinder traffic flow and create a traffic hazard
  • Be prepared for long lines at fuel pumps. Access to fuel may be limited
  • Be aware that heavy traffic congestion may interfere with delivery of food, fuel and other supplies along the total solar eclipse corridor
  • Be careful - while local agencies are gearing up for large crowds, heavy traffic may hinder the ability of emergency agencies to respond
  • Be patient - you are likely to encounter slow-moving traffic at some point during your visit
  • Bring a GPS-based navigation unit as cell phone navigation may be sketchy due to heavy cell and data traffic
  • If your group is traveling in several vehicles, consider communicating with two-way radios as cell service near the total eclipse corridor may be limited due to heavy demand

Traffic through Kentucky along Interstate 24 and Interstate 69, as well as along the Pennyrile Parkway and the U.S. 68/KY 80 corridor in the western half of the state, is expected to be especially congested for several days - before, during and after the eclipse.

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