Transportation cabinet begins countdown to eclipse

Along with the rest of the nation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has begun the countdown to the total solar eclipse that has captured global interest: 10 days until the sun goes dark; nine days (or fewer) until the roadways in western Kentucky begin to feel the impact of up to 500,000 eclipse chasers anticipated to flock to the region. 

Occurring the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 21, the total solar eclipse will attract visitors to 21 western Kentucky counties, 10 of which are along the path’s center line. With the influx of visitors to the area, delays and slower moving traffic are possible. What is typically a two-hour drive to the region could easily become a four-hour trip due to traffic. 

“We want residents and visitors to be fully prepared for heavy traffic and other potential challenges that may arise due to the mass migration of people heading to the eclipse corridor,” said KYTC Sec. Greg Thomas. “For the best experience, visitors need to plan ahead and have a specific place to view the eclipse. We ask motorists to be patient and highly recommend that they come early, stay put, and leave late to lessen the impact of anticipated traffic in the western Kentucky region.” 

KYTC is also imploring motorists not to stop on roadways, rights-of-way or shoulders to view the eclipse. Stopping on these areas can create traffic hazards. An increase in crashes is a concern, and KYTC is urging motorists to remain alert and to exercise caution. 

“While this historic event presents transportation challenges, we welcome the opportunity to showcase Kentucky to visitors,” said Sec. Thomas. “KYTC has dedicated months to prepare for increased traffic along the eclipse corridor in Kentucky, and we are ready to deploy our resources to make state roadways as safe as possible.” 

Traffic through Kentucky along Interstates 24, 69 and 65 – as well as along the Natcher Parkway, the Pennyrile Parkway and the U.S. 68/KY 80 corridor in the western half of the state – is expected to be especially congested before, during and after the eclipse. Collaborating with Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Emergency Management and various local agencies, KYTC traffic engineers have prepared to pre-position crews and equipment strategically throughout western Kentucky counties to respond to traffic issues. 

Officials will be monitoring traffic signals at various exits and will be prepared to operate signals manually to improve traffic flow. Dozens of message boards stationed along major highways in the corridor will share traffic information with motorists and will warn drivers not to park on the roadway or shoulders. Also, a KYTC helicopter will be deployed to monitor key interchanges and highways for traffic congestion; traffic updates will be posted to KYTC’s social media sites.

In addition to advising motorists of heavy traffic, officials offer the following tips for visitors and area residents in preparation for their once-in-a-lifetime eclipse experience:
–    Bring eclipse glasses that are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard.
–    Be prepared for hot weather. Temps in mid-to-late August can be in the 90s.
–    Bring plenty of water – about a gallon a day per person.
–    Bring picnic or snack items. Restaurants and grocery stores may experience            long lines.
–    Pick a viewing location with rest rooms, which will be in high demand.
–    Do not stop along highways. Vehicles on the shoulder hinder traffic flow and              create a traffic hazard.
–    Be prepared for lines at fuel pumps. Access to fuel may be limited.
–    Be aware that heavy traffic congestion may interfere with delivery of food, fuel          and other supplies along the total eclipse corridor.
–    Be careful – large crowds and heavy traffic may hinder the ability of emergency        agencies to respond.
–    Be prepared for cell phone and data access issues due to heavy demand.
–    Groups traveling in multiple vehicles should consider using two-way radios in            case cell service is limited. 

Traffic and travel information specific to western Kentucky can be accessed via the following district social media sites: D1 (facebook.com/KYTCDistrict1), D2 (facebook.com/KYTCDistrict2), D3 (facebook.com/kytcdistrict3 andtwitter.com/KYTCDistrict3). 

For real-time statewide traffic and travel information, visit goky.ky.gov or download the free Waze app.