Thousands of people are expected to travel through Washington and descend on Oregon for Monday’s total solar eclipse.
Oregon’s Department of Transportation expects a million people to travel into the state for the celestial event. And it’s likely that many will come from Washington and British Columbia.
Transportation officials fear all that additional traffic will create serious gridlock in an already congested area.
“We see a lot of backups on the I-5 southbound heading into Portland from Vancouver usually from the morning commute,” said Tamara Greenwell, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
“And you add unknown thousands of people to that equation — it could get frustrating really quickly.”
“Please do not get on the freeway Monday at 8:30 a.m. to Salem. You’re going to get to nowhere fast,” said Celeste Dimichina with WSDOT’s communications department.
The agency is stressing that people in Washington who plan to travel into Oregon for the eclipse leave several days in advance of Monday.
“We know this is a once in a lifetime event for many people, but we want people to be safe,” Dimichina added.
WSDOT is advising solar eclipse viewers to not pull over on the shoulder of the highway, unless it’s an emergency. Drivers should also check traffic conditions in the area before hitting the road.
Southwest Washington tourism agencies say with most hotels and camping venues sold out in Oregon’s prime viewing area, eclipse tourism has been pushed northward. Visit Vancouver USA said all Clark County hotels were completely booked this weekend ahead of Monday’s eclipse.
“We should be a very busy destination, on and off the highways,” said Rosemary Arruda Cooke, Visit Vancouver USA’s director of business development.
According to the southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, about 297,527 vehicles crossed the Interstate-5 and Interstate-205 bridges on any given day last year. RTC staff estimates about 66,000 Clark County residents commute into Oregon for work each day.