Q&A with ITD About Travel for Solar Eclipse
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Idaho roads were not designed for the kind of heavy traffic that is expected over the next several days – but that is exactly what they’ll experience leading up to and after Monday’s solar eclipse.
“Idaho highways are not generally designed for this kind of traffic,” said Nathan Jerke, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department. “Most roads are designed to keep traffic moving for average, or slightly above average traffic flows.”
Several things are being done, however, in an effort to help ease congestion and keep people safe. Some road construction projects, such as work on Interstate 15 near Pocatello, will shut down from Aug. 18-22, and flaggers and temporary signals will be in place at some rural intersections.
But Jerke says travelers should do their part as well, such as leave early and stay late to help ease road congestion. The department also suggests that travelers check its website, 511.idaho.gov, which will be updated to let travelers know road conditions and which ones are congested.
Some highways on the map are already marked, reminding travelers that those roads are expected to experience congestion.
“As of now (Friday morning), there isn’t significant traffic congestion,” Jerke said. “The warnings were placed to become active during the days and times when we do expect there to be congestion … some aren’t scheduled to begin until Sunday afternoon or even Monday morning. Those active along I-15 is just an active reminder or warnings to travelers to encourage early traveling and reminders to be ready for congestion or delays, that’s why they are signified with the “i” logo for information.”
Ready to get on the road?
Jerke recently answered several more questions from us related to travel and road conditions for the eclipse. Below are our questions and his answers:
News Radio 1310: Are there any specific things that ITD is doing to help with traffic congestion?
Nathan Jerke: ITD is employing some tactics to help with congestion, like placing flaggers or temporary signals at some rural intersections or making minor changes to traffic signal timing, to keep traffic moving as efficiently as possible. However, there may be some changes due to local flagging plans, temporary signals at rural intersections, or detours if an emergency situation develops. Drivers should be vigilant to watch signage and be prepared for congestion, alternative routes and changes to their travel plan.
However, Idaho highways are not generally designed for this kind of traffic. Most roads are designed to keep traffic moving for average, or slightly above average traffic flows. In most communities, there is only one or two days per day that would ever warrant roads large enough to move 2-3 times above average traffic. It would have taken millions of dollars and years of planning to make up for the kind of congestion expected over the next four days.
NR1310: What are some of the best tips for drivers over the next few days?
NJ: Arrive early, stay put, leave late … expect that any route you take will be busy, as will the location you have chosen. Stagger leave times if you can, but you will likely encounter congestion unless you stay a day or two.
Most local resources in small communities will be expended, be prepared with fluids, food and fuel to sustain everyone in your vehicle for several hours. First aid kids, extra medications, and other emergency vehicle provisions should be considered as well. Call 911 only if it is an emergency. Be prepared ahead of time and get some phone numbers of other local assets, like a towing company, near your watch area.
NR1310: Are there roads and highways that you expect to be more congested than others? If so, which are they?
NJ: From Twin Falls, US-93 will be congested on the major travel days – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – to the Arco/Mackay area.
- From Shoshone, Idaho Highway 75 will be congested from Shoshone to Challis Saturday through Tuesday.
- I-15 throughout eastern Idaho will be congested from now through next Wednesday.
- Other eastern Idaho routes – US-20, US-26, ID-33, etc. – will be extremely busy Sunday through Tuesday.
NR1310: Besides the preventative drunk driving campaign that kicks off through Labor Day, are there any other efforts between ITD and law enforcement over the next few days?
NJ: ITD has been coordinating response plans over the last six months to make sure each agency knows where the others resources will be and when. ITD in south-central Idaho has coordinated primarily with the Idaho State Police and Blaine County Sheriff's Office to ensure a smooth transition of information.
ITD will be deploying response teams throughout the area of eclipse totality in Blaine and Custer counties, as well as throughout the state, to be ready to assist law enforcement in emergency situations. Along all other state highways not included in the areas of totality, ITD will also be ready to respond in emergency situations as needed.