State highway officials are urging motorists to get off the roads and arrive early at viewing sites during Monday’s Great American Eclipse.
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Area Engineer Judy Wagner is urging spectators of the celestial event to stay off the shoulders to avoid crashes, or create congestion.
“We’re just encouraging folks not to park on the shoulders of interstates and to get to their destinations by 11 a.m. so they can be at the site to see the total eclipse,” she said.
According to Wagner, there will be no work through the weekend and Monday to prevent delays and injury to MoDOT crews.
“There won’t be anything all day or even the weekend as folks are coming in,” she said. “We want to make sure there is as much free-flowing traffic as possible.”
There are estimates of 1.5 million visitors to Missouri during the eclipse, many of whom will be in the St. Louis area. That influx of tourists, coupled with Missouri motorists traveling closer to the area of totality, will create congestion on major arteries in Franklin County.
Message boards will be placed Thursday to target drivers on Interstate 44, Highway 100, Highway 50 and Highway 30 locally.
“Those are the main ones I am concerned with,” Wagner said. “Those routes are right in the path.”
The messages will warn drivers to be prepared to stop, plan ahead, to not stop in the road, to wear eclipse glasses and other cautions.
There are expectations that people will fly into Lambert Airport and then travel down I-44 and I-55 to Franklin and Jefferson counties where there is a longer viewing of the total eclipse compared to other areas.
Wagner noted that emergency response personnel will be on the roadways to assist drivers during crashes or to provide fuel to move vehicles off of the roads.
“They also may respond to things off the interstates, depending how close and how busy they are,” she said.
Wagner said that a primary concern is the traffic following the eclipse.
“I think there will be heavier traffic afterward,” she commented. “Those who come to events may want to be home for dinner. Hopefully people linger after those activities."
Wagner added that it is difficult to gauge problem areas that will be congested more than others because the event is so rare.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” she said.
Following are driving tips issued by MoDOT:
• Plan ahead and allow extra travel time to reach viewing locations.
• Don’t stop along the interstate and no parking on the shoulder.
• Please exit the highway to stop and view and/or photograph the solar eclipse.
• Don’t take photographs while driving.
• Turn headlights on and do not rely on automatic headlights.
• Don’t wear “eclipse glasses” while driving.
• Avoid travel during the eclipse or in the area of the main path if possible.
• In the event of a minor crash on the eclipse day, exit the highway to exchange insurance information. State law requires vehicles to get out of the driving lanes when involved in a minor crash with no injuries.
• 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.
• Prepare for extreme congestion after the eclipse and consider staying at a viewing location to avoid the heavy amounts of exiting traffic from events.
• Check traffic conditions on MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at traveler.modot.org/map/. The map also is available as a free app at MoDOT Traveler Information.