PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With only four more days until the solar eclipse, traffic is already picking up across Oregon as visitors pour in from across the country and even the world.
The Portland International Airport was the gateway for people traveling from hours away for a few short minutes they’ll remember for a lifetime.
Hundreds of people stepped of a 10-plus hour flight Thursday night only to learn they were only about halfway to their destination. The Eclipse Festival outside Prineville was an estimated 14 hour bus ride away from the airport as of Thursday evening.
Traffic through Prineville has been heavy since Wednesday, getting so bad at one point that the Oregon Department of Transportation closed the main path to the festival in order to reduce congestion. Officials said there were 800 cars an hour and the back-up was about 30 miles from the festival in the Big Summit Prairie in Crook County. The event is expected to draw up to 35,000 people over the next four days.
ODOT closed eastbound lanes of Hwy 26 and rerouted traffic onto Paulina Hwy until traffic was no longer blocked around 8 p.m. Thursday. Prineville police said you can still get to the festival that way, but it will take longer. The highway reopened late Thursday, but could close again as thousands are still expected to pass through that way.
Even with the long journey visitors are taking to get to prime eclipse viewing territory, people are excited to be in Oregon for this once in a lifetime astronomical event.
Crook County officials urged people to avoid traveling Thursday and Friday due to “extremely heavy traffic.”
KOIN 6 News has been monitoring Oregon Department of Transportation cameras to keep an eye on the back-ups.
Over 1 million people are expected to travel Oregon to see the solar eclipse, causing unprecedented traffic. It could be the worse traffic mess in state history.
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.
“Eye on the Eclipse” – a KOIN 6 News special at 8 p.m. Saturday
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.