Officials from various states expect heavy traffic pile ups in key regions of the United States, where the coast to coast solar eclipse will be most visible, on Aug. 21.
The last full coast to coast solar eclipse hasn’t occurred since 1918—a time when the Ford Model T was just a decade old, and concerns about mass transportation issues were far from Americans’ minds.
However, state transportation departments are, at present, planning strategies to avoid problems on the road when people in their cars ultimately decide to pull over and view the eclipse.
According to the trucking news website Transport Topics, states are already changing trucking schedules to avoid a heavier congestion problem of the solar eclipse that will measure out to be 70 miles wide.
The Oregon Department of Transportation warns the solar eclipse will cause the “biggest traffic event in Oregon’s history.”
“One of the things that we’re doing is tracking rumors, and we’re hearing a rumor on Twitter that a lot of people from Seattle are going to be coming down very, very early on Monday morning of the eclipse and that’s going to complicate the morning commute in the city of Portland,” said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton to Portland’s NBC affiliate, KGEW.
“Having more vehicles on the road than we have had before is going to be a new experience. Overwidth vehicles take up more than a standard lane and require escort vehicles, which will block passing traffic at narrow locations such as bridges. Because we expect gridlock, we don’t want to add bottlenecks that slow traffic further,” David House, a spokesman with Oregon DOT’s Motor Carrier Transportation Division told Transport Topics. “Some people have been planning this for years. We can’t stop all these people from coming.”
Georgia Department of Transportation’s Natalie Dale told National Public Radio’s WABE the agency expects heavier backups in metro Atlanta, specifically north of Interstate 20.
“We will have patrols going through to make sure that traffic is moving, to make sure that we don’t have any traffic backups,” Dale said.
Dale cautions drivers to be sure to have enough gas in their cars, as they may run out of fuel while they wait in traffic if there is not enough already in their tanks.
“We don’t want anyone to become what they call an eclipse refugee, which is someone who decided at the spur of the moment to head up to this corner of the state to watch the eclipse and then was either unable to get gas, or all the hotels were sold out, so they’re not able to find a place to stay,” Dale told WABE.
Additionally, The Tennessee Transportation Department announced it will be illegal for drivers and their passengers to stop their vehicles on interstates to watch the eclipse—specifically in emergency lanes, WDEF reported.