MoDOT officials advise drivers to be cautious on eclipse day

It will be the first total solar eclipse in the St. Louis area since 1442.  At the same time local officials are concerned about traffic safety.

Transportation and police agencies across Missouri and Illinois have issued warnings about next Monday’s solar eclipse, warning that traffic snarls and potentially accidents could occur when motorists travel from prime viewing areas.

Jefferson and Franklin counties and points farther south are expected to be among the top spots for Missourians to watch the eclipse.

A national task force of communications personnel from each of 14 states in the eclipse’s “totality” path was created to help address traffic safety concerns.  Because this is rare event, the task force has had to look at how southern states have adapted and prepared for hurricanes. 

In Missouri, MoDOT has increased the number of staffers on motorist assist  vehicles.  They will work with the Missouri Highway Patrol to monitor highway rest areas for congestion.  The expectation is that if the rest areas get filled up, they will have to be closed.

MoDOT expects to see a large increase of motorists in the state.  Estimates place it anywhere between 300,000 to 1.2 million visitors from other states who will be traveling to this central state to see the eclipse.  Excess traffic is expected not just the day of the eclipse but the day before and after as well.

Illinois also expects an uptick in traffic. Estimates are from 100,000 to 200,000 expected to visit the southern Illinois viewing areas near Carbondale.

Because of the increased traffic, transportation leasers are advising visitors to find a safe location, arrive extra early, remain there for a good period afterwards, and leave late.

Drivers are encouraged to turn on their headlights and watch out for pedestrians on smaller roads. People are expected to be randomly parking and walking shortly before the eclipse to get good vantage points and drivers must be aware of their safety.

MoDOT is warning drivers that they cannot stop on interstate highways and that parking is illegal on shoulders.

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