Eclipse traffic jam may be greatest in Oregon history

Total solar eclipse August 21 expected to bring 1M to Oregon

Cars are lined bumper-to-bumper coming off the Broadway Bridge in Portland during rush hour. (KOIN)
Cars are lined bumper-to-bumper coming off the Broadway Bridge in Portland during rush hour. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — You think the traffic is bad on a daily basis? Wait until the eclipse.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning drivers that the August 21 eclipse could cause the worst traffic mess in Oregon history. The traffic jams on the highways could rival the problems caused by our winter storms last year, which trapped people in gridlock overnight.

Police are concerned about the traffic impacts so much that ODOT said they plan to stop construction projects on highways and shut down weigh stations to allow emergency responders and police to stage there. That will allow them to reach drivers in an emergency quicker.

The path of totality for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 (Courtesy: NationalEclipse.com)
The path of totality for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 (Courtesy: NationalEclipse.com)

Don Hamilton with ODOT said there may be a million people who descend on the state for the eclipse, especially in the 60-mile path of totality that spans the state from west to east.

He pointed to towns like Madras and Maupin. “What happens in some of these small towns where suddenly you get 10,000 more people? What happens to the food in the grocery stores, the gas at the gas stations?”

Drivers should prepare

This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. (AP Photo, File)
This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. (AP Photo, File)

Like many who plan on traveling to the path of totality, Jay Arancivia doesn’t yet know when he’ll leave or where he’ll watch it.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be crowded. It’s going to be one epic adventure,” Arancivia told KOIN 6 News.

Hamilton said, “All types of congestion are possible in here. We could get people pulling over on the side of the road, which is very dangerous.”

ODOT officials compare it to a big game day in Oregon — only much worse.

“Imagine a day when you have a football game in Corvallis and a football game in Eugene and what it’s like on I-5,” Hamilton said. “Multiply that by 10 and look around the rest of the state.”

A road map of Oregon (Public Domain Pictures)
A road map of Oregon (Public Domain Pictures)

Bring extra water, food and even fuel to save you if you get stuck. You should also plan for a way to go to the bathroom if you’re caught in gridlock.

And get an old-fashioned paper map or print one to have with you. Cell phone mapping systems will likely get overwhelmed with everyone on the road using them.

Kirk Mondshour believes the warnings are valid. So he’ll likely check out the coverage on KOIN 6 and KOIN.com.

“I think it’s going to be pretty crazy because there are a lot of people, like horoscope people, that are going to be out there just swamping the place,” Mondshour said. “I’m not that interested in seeing a black hole over the sun for 2 minutes, and not the anguish of traffic. Just probably watch it on television.”

Complete Coverage: Oregon Solar Eclipse