|Mountain traffic falls short of fears for Great American Eclipse posted on 09/07/2017|
The potential traffic gridlock and delays on Mount Hood
surrounding the days of the Great American Eclipse never came to pass last
month, although traffic in other areas of the state did see dramatic increases,
according to Kimberly Dinwiddie, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)
Community Affairs. She noted that eastbound traffic on the mountain was up by
30 percent on Sunday, Aug. 20 (the day before the eclipse) compared to the same
day in 2016, while eastbound traffic on the Friday and Saturday before actually
decreased compared to the prior year.
“Things went much better than expected,” Dinwiddie said.
She added that traffic around Timothy Lake saw the most
delays in the hours after the eclipse, particularly as traffic tried to merge
from Skyline Road to Hwy. 26 and the vehicles returning from the Madras area.
“Once people got further down the mountain, traffic really
thinned out,” Dinwiddie said. “We credit the travelers who made decisions to
arrive early, stay put and leave late.”
Dinwiddie added that elsewhere in the state, travelers did
not fare as well. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, Prineville experienced a 15-mile
backup, while on the Monday of the eclipse, travel between Hwy. 217 and the
Wilsonville area took approximately 30 minutes when it normally would have
taken approximately nine minutes. She noted that there were also reports of
travel from Salem to Portland taking three hours (three times the normal travel
time), and that some travelers needed six hours to get out of Madras after the
“We’re very fortunate that we didn’t see that on Mount
Hood,” Dinwiddie said, adding that the coast saw “normal summer congestion”
around the eclipse.
The Oregon National Guard was brought in on Saturday, Aug.
19 to assist the Hoodland Fire District (HFD), including providing logistical
support, routing traffic and
distribution of handouts. The HFD also implemented the use of two BMW adventure
sport motorcycles staffed with a Paramedic and EMT to respond to emergency
incidents, to provide advanced medical care and scene management ahead of
larger fire engines.
Dinwiddie added that work on the RealTime sign project on
Hwy. 26 will include minor shoulder closures in September, but the project is
still expected to be complete by the end of the year.
By Garth Guibord/MT