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Surprising Worries of Oregon Coast Eclipse Traffic; Many Preparations

Published 08/18/2017 at 4:23 PM PDT - Updated 08/18/2017 at 4:33 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Surprising Worries of Oregon Coast Eclipse Traffic - and Preparations

(Newport, Oregon) – There are a great number of things that Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is worrying about when it comes to eclipse traffic on the Oregon coast this week, and some are surprising.

Angela Beers-Seydel, ODOT spokesman for region 2 (which includes Lincoln County) said it's coming down to they are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

This is especially so at the hour of the eclipse itself. It will basically be nighttime at that point, and that - coupled with all the extra traffic issues such as people stopping in the middle of the road - presents an unusual amount of headaches.

ODOT spent considerable time talking to other places around the world that had dealt with this, and they learned a lot. The biggest lesson was that they should get the word out there about what to expect – which ODOT and regional media have done, to the point where it's practically become eclipse news overload.

Still, they expect traffic to be at a standstill during the solar event itself - a brief bout of night, to boot. That is one thing Beers-Seydel said they were told over and over. No matter how many times Oregon officials tell you not to look up or stop in the road during the eclipse, there's always someone who does.

“Our greatest hope is that people get off the main roadways,” Beers-Seydel said. “Be extra, extra cautious: that other guy may be the guy that stops in the middle of road. It will be dark. Really watch out what's going on around you.”

What spots could be the worst for traffic over the weekend? Beers-Seydel said ODOT has looked into that extensively but the answer is there just is no answer. There are so many variables it's impossible to say.

“The way I think about it personally is you're sitting anywhere on the coast on a sunny weekend, and traffic is moving slowly but it is continuing to move.”

Among the surprises is that any and all roads in Oregon will be fair game. Beers-Seydel said they won't be surprised to see even Highway 26 or Highway 6 on the north coast to be packed as watchers try every trick in the book to get to where they're going. Even towns like Cannon Beach, Tillamook or Manzanita could get hit as motorists look for a different route.

Highway 20 between Corvallis and Newport is a big worry, she said, as its entire length is along the path of totality. There, ODOT will be having extra teams on hand in what she called a “zone defense.”

“Crews will be stationed every five miles, 24 hours a day, starting Friday,” Beers-Seydel said. “All trucks will be equipped to deal with all the types of things we deal with on the roadway.”

All pedestrian traffic will be closed on Newport's Yaquina Bay Bridge, starting in the early morning and going through at least until after the eclipse.

“That's a safety issue,” Beers-Seydel said. “Traffic probably won't be moving at all, but could be. If we allow pedestrians on the bridge that's the potential for an overwhelming amount of people.” Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

Overall, Beers-Seydel said that crews can't be everywhere and this has to be a partnership between government agencies and the public.

With so many more on the roads, more emergencies are bound to happen, adding to the gridlock. This means responders will need to get through that, which will in turn slow traffic even more.

This is not a time to be distracted on the roads.

The other interesting surprise is the likelihood of cellphone outages and lack of connectivity. Certainly, rural roads will be affected as many areas there don't have it in the first place or have extremely weak signals.

“Don't check your phone all the time,” Beers-Seydel said. “This causes your phone to ping the cell tower, and pinging affects service. If you don't need to be on a phone: then don't. Leave it open for those who need it. There will be limited service. You can probably text but you won't be able to send a pic.”

This was also one thing other locales around the world talked about with ODOT. A good example Beers-Seydel cited is even though Austin Stadium in Eugene has a cell tower out front to deal with the extra load, it is still difficult to get a signal when the venue is packed.

Keep an eye on Oregon Coast Traffic Conditions.

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