Traffic going to Wyoming and Nebraska for Monday viewing is expected to be very heavy through the weekend
RBC | The Colorado Department of Transportation is doing everything it can to ensure folks who are driving to Wyoming or Nebraska to view the totality of the solar eclipse on Monday are safe and will all be able to get where they are going.
Throughout the country, preparations have been underway for months for people to flock to areas in the path of “totality” for the eclipse. And Colorado is no different. CDOT has been working with Colorado State Patrol, Wyoming Department of Transportation as well as local, city and state first responders and emergency management officials to develop a plan to try to make Monday as smooth as possible.
Those plans include:
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 CDOT Safety Patrol along North I-25 from one unit to four.
Strategically staging with State Patrol 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.
“This has the potential to be a major traffic event. Both given the heavy traffic volume as well as disruptions due to the eclipse,” said CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt. “We are asking the driving public to plan ahead, be safe, and be patient.”
Larimer County has set up a great way to stay in touch with traffic, emergency and weather alerts for the event. Just text the word “ECLIPSE” to 888777 and you will get all you need to know. In Colorado, you can also go to www.cotrip.org and in Wyoming, you can go to www.wyoroad.info for real-time traffic updates. CDOT also has a page dedicated to eclipse information: www.codot.gov/news/2017-news/august/eclipse-traffic-tips
Currently, predictions for attendance in Wyoming and Nebraska are very high. Some experts are predicting up to 600,000 more people cramming into Wyoming to witness this. That’s basically doubling the population of the state. And we know a lot of those folks are going to be coming from the south so all Colorado highways heading there (I-25, US 287, US 85, CO 52, etc.) are expected to be busy.
Since the eclipse is on a Monday, traffic is expected to be heavy through the whole weekend before but will probably be even worse coming back after the sun shines again.
Depending on exactly how many people travel and when they travel, this could be the most significant traffic event of the entire year in Colorado. Imagine 6 Denver Broncos games all getting out at the same time on the same highway to go home. Extremely high traffic volume is expected Friday through Tuesday, with exceptionally high traffic on Monday after the eclipse, returning from Wyoming and Nebraska. Travel delays could exceed several hours, between Wyoming and Denver, especially for return traffic on Monday. CDOT expects the highest delays to be on Monday between noon and midnight, southbound from Wyoming to Colorado Springs. Delays could last through Tuesday. CDOT strongly urges travelers to avoid travel during that time.
CDOT is partnering with our local first responders and the Colorado State Patrol – as well as our partners at the Wyoming Department of Transportation – to provide some tips on making your eclipse trip something great to remember:
· Pay attention, and don’t drive distracted. Drive defensively because there will be more motorists on the road, and some of them may be slowing down or may not be paying attention when the eclipse is occurring.
· Ensure vehicles have plenty of fuel.
· Don’t stop and pull off onto the side of the roads.
· Don’t use the center median crossings on the interstates for turning around or parking. Those crossings are for authorized vehicles. Emergency vehicles need to keep these areas clear for response to emergency situations.
· Don’t park on any highway shoulder or in any ditch area. That can not only be dangerous for you and other drivers, but a person’s car exhaust could start a grass fire.
· Plan ahead and move to a safe and legal area prior to the eclipse so you can enjoy the experience.
· Use eclipse glasses to safely view the eclipse. These glasses provide eye protection from the eclipse.
· Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks. It is unknown how busy traffic will be, but with hotels and campsites sold out, we are expecting large amounts of traffic surrounding this momentous event. This is also the first day for Colorado State University students and freshman orientation for Colorado University.
· Travelers should check applicable traveler information for Wyoming and Colorado (COTrip, 511, GovDelivery alerts, mobile navigation apps) before departing and reference traveler information throughout their trip to avoid significant delays. But realize that, depending on the traffic, cell phone coverage may be overwhelmed.
How much of an increase in traffic are you expecting?
Predictions are pretty difficult for this since the last time something like this happened was in the early part of the century. 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.
Which roadways will be affected by this?
Again, predicting traffic patterns for a once-in-a-lifetime event are difficult, but it is probably safe to assume that every north-south roadway will be impacted as well as many east-west highways like I-70 and I-76.
What route is CDOT recommending for drivers?
CDOT is not recommending any one route over another. As stated, we are expecting all of our roads to be pretty busy through the weekend and Monday, and especially heavy after the event as everyone comes home. People can text “ECLIPSE” to 888777 to get traffic, emergency and weather-related information texted to their phone.
What is CDOT doing to make things easier on drivers for this event?
All work on projects on our highways will be shut down from Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning to ensure traffic flows as smoothly as possible. Restrictions have also been put in place for oversize/overweight vehicles from Thursday, Aug. 17, to Wednesday, Aug. 23. We have also teamed up with the Colorado State Patrol, Wyoming Department of Transportation and local fire and paramedic responders in centralized area along these major corridors to be better able to respond to situations that may develop. There will also be four Courtesy Patrol vehicles on I-25 during this time to assist drivers in needs and to help clear the roadway.
When do you think traffic will be the worst?
Because the eclipse takes place on a Monday, we fully expect a lot of the folks going to Wyoming or Nebraska will take advantage of the weekend and go up from Friday through Monday. Obviously, a lot of people will be going up just for the day on Monday. However, the biggest traffic issues will probably after the event is over as people drive back home all around the same time.