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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 eclipse.

“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




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