Prepare for heavy traffic when the moon’s shadow sweeps across a swath of the U.S. the afternoon of Monday, April 8.  -  HDT Graphic

Prepare for heavy traffic when the moon’s shadow sweeps across a swath of the U.S. the afternoon of Monday, April 8.

HDT Graphic

A rare astronomical event next week may cause problems for trucking in some areas. A complete solar eclipse — when the moon will pass in front of the sun — will occur over the middle portion of the United States on Monday, April 8.

Portions of 14 states and part of Canada will be plunged into total darkness during daylight hours. The maximum duration of “totality,” as the phenomenon is known, will only last for about four and a half minutes at the most.

What will the impact of the total solar eclipse be on traffic? There will be extended low-light (dusk and dawn) periods on either side of the totality. This will obviously lead to nighttime driving conditions in the middle of the day. Even for states not in the path of the totality, the partial eclipse will lead to darker conditions.

Another issue is that the event will attract thousands of star-gazers from all over the country. These astronomy fans will flock to affected states in order to witness the event firsthand. This will cause an influx of thousands of vehicles on the highways in states along the path of the eclipse.

State officials are predicting heavy traffic congestion in many areas and unusually dangerous driving conditions before, during and after the eclipse.

The affected states (in order of the path of the eclipse) are Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, plus parts of eastern Canada.

Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan may also experience the total solar eclipse.

The projected path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse.  -  Source: NASA

The projected path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse.

Source: NASA

Arkansas: Largest Tourism Event in State History

The Arkansas Department of Transportation issued a 2024 Solar Eclipse Traffic Management Plan in preparation for the event. The eclipse, it said, will creae a 118-mile-wide shadow that will enter the southwest tip of Arkansas near De Queen at 1:46 p.m. CDT.

The shadow will move along a northeasterly path until it exits the state near Pocahontas at approximately 2 p.m.

ARDOT expects the eclipse to be the largest tourism event in the state’s history. The agency said it expects up to 1.5 million out-of-state tourists, as well as 500,000 Arkansas residents who will travel from their homes to the path of totality to view the event.

All told, the department expects approximately 700,000 additional vehicles to be on Arkansas roads in the path of totality during the eclipse.

The prime areas in Arkansa affected by the eclipse and its likely impact on traffic patterns.  -  Photo: ARDOT

The prime areas in Arkansa affected by the eclipse and its likely impact on traffic patterns.

Photo: ARDOT

For those reasons, ARDOT is suggesting many commercial vehicles take a “truck holiday” in Arkansas on April 8.

“Severe congestion is expected on the entire Arkansas State Highway System during the Eclipse,” ARDOT said in its Traffic Management Plan. “Traffic will be to such an extent that the day may be mostly unproductive for freight vehicles.

"ARDOT will engage the Arkansas Trucking Association in an effort to encourage truckers to adjust their travel schedule, so they are not trapped on the roadways with solar eclipse related traffic... this will be a voluntary decision on the part of the commercial drivers with no penalty for those who decide to operate during the eclipse.”

No oversize travel will be allowed from sunset on April 4 until sunrise on April 10.

Arkansas has also issued these specific travel advisories in relation to the solar eclipse:

  • Reduced Construction Activity: The agency will limit main lane road closures from April 5–9 to help maximize capacity of the existing roadway network.
  • Pre-Staged Law Enforcement and First Responders: With volumes already well above capacity, any incidents (due to crashes, weather, or other causes) will quickly make a challenging situation even worse. ARDOT personnel will work in tandem with State Police pre-positioned along key routes to work to maintain traffic flow and minimize disruptions.
  • Mountain Driving: In some cases, very high volumes are expected on rural, mountainous routes that are not designed for these traffic volumes. Unfamiliar drivers could find themselves facing long travel delays on steep, rugged roads without cellular service.
  • Alternate Routes: Eclipse traffic volumes will likely exceed capacity on many highways, making it difficult to avoid congestion by choosing another route. However, there will be some locations where encouraging alternate roadways makes sense.

Minimal Impact Expected in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Transportation issued an alert noting that the eclipse will be visible over approximately 128 miles of Illinois on April 8.

Totality will enter Illinois as it crosses the Missouri state line southwest in Carbondale at 1:58 p.m. CDT. The eclipse will follow a diagonal line crossing over Fairfield and exit Illinois at Mount Carmel at 2:06 p.m.

The IDOT said crowds of between 100,000 to 200,000 people are expected to come to the prime viewing area in southern Illinois.

All roads in and out of the area are expected to have heavy congestion in the couple hours after the eclipse.

Interstate 57 is the direct interstate access to the path of totality. U.S. 45 runs through the middle of the path of totality. Illinois 1 and Interstates 64 and 70 will provide access to the area. 

Any lane closures on state projects will be lifted throughout the weekend and the day after the eclipse.

IDOT also issued these travel tips for driving during the eclipse:

  • Ensure headlights are on.
  • Don't take photos, videos, or wear "eclipse glasses" while driving.
  • Don't park along the shoulder of the road, highway, or interstate to watch the eclipse.
  • Always exit the roadway and park in a safe area away from traffic before viewing the eclipse.
  • Check travel conditions at Getting Around Illinois

Kentucky: Congested Roads and Long Delays

The path of the solar eclipse will cover a large portion of Kentucky. State and local agencies are urging residents, tourists and truckers to prepare for heavy solar eclipse traffic when the moon’s shadow sweeps across the commonwealth’s western counties.

The totality phase will enter Kentucky minutes before 2 p.m. CDT in parts of Fulton and Hickman counties before crossing Ballard, McCracken, Livingston, Crittenden, Union and Henderson counties along the Ohio River.

The Kentucky Department of Transportation said those on the roads should expect congested highways limited access to rest areas and truck stops. Expect several hours of traffic congestion at Ohio River crossings and along north-south routes across Kentucky similar to what major cities regularly experience during rush hour. Post-eclipse traffic is likely to hit the Cincinnati and Louisville region at evening rush hour.

To prepare for increased solar eclipse traffic, transportation officials are lifting lane restrictions in select work zones and are informing commercial truck drivers of expected traffic.

The commonwealth is also taking proactive measures to help truckers during the eclipse. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will issue Notify Every Truck (NET) advisories for eclipse traffic. It has identified locations where backups are most likely, including:

  • The Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah.
  • The U.S. 41 Twin Bridges at Henderson.
  • Bridges that connect Interstates 65 and 64 at Louisville.

In addition, crews will temporarily remove work zone lane restrictions along key routes in parts of Kentucky where heavy solar eclipse traffic is expected. Some work zones will remain in place.

State highway crews will be staged throughout western Kentucky to detour or move traffic along in case of backups — especially after the eclipse — but traffic congestion and delays are likely.

KYTC said the solar event is expected to bring at least 150,000 visitors to the path where it crosses several Western Kentucky counties. In addition, more than 1 million travelers are predicted to drive through Kentucky to nearby viewing spots along the main path in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

Based on traffic patterns seen during the 2017 total solar eclipse that also swept across Kentucky, initial congestion was light as visitors traveled to the eclipse path over several days. However, heavy traffic surges occurred when visitors made their return trip.

When the eclipse ends, KYTC personnel will be stationed at key interchanges and pinch points to monitor traffic. Portable message boards will direct traffic to alternate routes when needed.

Slow-moving solar eclipse traffic is expected to continue into the evening hours of April 8.

Visit KYTC’s eclipse page for spectator, travel and pilot tips, eclipse path maps, and for links to district social media pages for eclipse-related announcements. Real-time traffic information is also available online at GoKY.ky.gov.

New York Issues Oversize Travel Restrictions

The eclipse will be visible over a large portion of New York. The State Department of Transportation expects very large solar eclipse traffic volumes on the day of the eclipse, and also the day after as viewers will be returning home.

New York counties where oversized travel is restricted during the eclipse are shown in green. Oversize travel may resume on half hour before sunrise on Wednesday April 10.  -  Photo: NYSDOT

New York counties where oversized travel is restricted during the eclipse are shown in green. Oversize travel may resume on half hour before sunrise on Wednesday April 10.

Photo: NYSDOT

As a result, the NYSDOT is restricting all oversize travel starting at 6 a.m. on Monday, April 8, and continuing through 9 p.m., on Tuesday, April 9. This restriction is within counties that are in the path of the eclipse. 

The New York State Thruway Authority is suspending all LCV/Tandem Operations on the Thruway system in both directions between Interchange 24 (Albany-Montreal-I-90) and the Pennsylvania State Line, including I-190, from 6 a.m. Monday, April 8, through 6 a.m. Tuesday, April 9.

During this time, all tandem equipment (except dollies) must be removed by 6 a.m. on Monday or be removed at the owner’s expense for all tandem lots within the restricted area. No equipment will be allowed to enter or exit the tandem area during this period. Equipment may be returned to the tandem area beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Ohio: Oversize/Overweight Restrictions in Cleveland

The state has not announced statewide DOT restrictions, but some cities, like Cleveland have decided to restrict oversize load movement, according to WCS Permits.

The City of Cleveland has decided that no OVMs shall be able to move through a certain area from April 1 through April 8. Local law enforcement will be enforcing this.

Pennsylvania Restricts Oversize Loads, Expects Congestion on I-79, I-90

The Pennsylvania DOT will restrict oversize loads on several roadways in the affected region. PennDOT officials think Interstates 79 and 90 will be the most congested after the eclipse, as people from out of town try to head back home.

The path of the eclipse will impact Pennsylvania starting at approximately 2 p.m. EDT as the moon travels in front of the sun. At approximately 3:16 p.m. to 3:20 p.m., totality will occur in northwest region. At the same time, the remainder of the state will see the moon covering 90% to 99% of the sun. The eclipse will conclude at approximately 4:30.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will be keeping all lanes of traffic open heading to and from Erie on I-79 via the Cranberry Interchange (Exit #28) and adding additional maintenance personnel in the event of an emergency.

Texas Suspends Oversize and Overweight Loads

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend all oversize and overweight loads on April 8 to help reduce traffic congestion during the eclipse.

In a travel advisory, the agency said that because the solar eclipse is expected to cause severe traffic delays, no size/weight permitted travel will be allowed on that day from midnight to midnight in the following counties:

Anderson, Atascosa, Bandera, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Bosque, Bowie, Brown, Burnet, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Coleman, Collin, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Dallas, Delta, Denton, Dimmit, Edwards, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fannin, Franklin, Freestone, Frio, Gillespie, Grayson, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays, Henderson, Hill, Hood, Hopkins, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Limestone, Llano, Marion, Mason, Maverick, McLennan, McCulloch, Medina, Menard, Milam, Mills, Morris, Navarro, Parker, Rains, Real, Red River, Robertson, Rockwall, San Saba, Smith, Somervell, Sutton, Tarrant, Titus, Travis, Upshur, Uvalde, Val Verde, Van Zandt, Williamson, Wood, and Zavala.

Drivers or fleets needing additional information or assistance regarding this restriction should contact the TxDMV Permit Office at 1-800-299-1700, Option 2.

Vermont Issues Oversize/Overweight Restrictions

According to WCS Permits, no travel allowed on April 8 on state highways, unless otherwise stated, permits will not be issued for the movement of loads in excess of 108,000 pounds, or over 12 feet wide or over 100 feet long.

Canada Ministry of Transportation Warns of Border Delays

According to the Canadian Space Agency, the path of totality will pass through some cities and towns in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

The eclipse will only affect a small portion the Canadian province of Ontario, but the area covered by the totality is highly populated and sees busy cross-border traffic on normal travel days. Both Toronto and Nigara (on both sides of the border) are expecting record numbers of tourists to witness the eclipse. 

The Canadian Ministry of Transportation Ontario has issued a memo about the potential for significant delays and traffic congestion on the QEW, Highway 401, Highway 403, at border crossings in Southern Ontario, and on all roadways within the solar eclipse path of totality.

In Ontario, the eclipse will occur between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST, during which the parts of Southern Ontario that are within the path of totality will experience darkness, including complete darkness for a short duration. The entire eclipse will last for 2.5 hours.

Deborah Lockridge contributed to this story.

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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