Travel is ramping up across the state as Monday’s solar eclipse draws closer, according to Idaho Transportation Department data.
The good news? As of Sunday, that increase of visitors in Idaho hasn’t caused congestion on roadways, said ITD’s Vince Tromboli.
“We haven’t seen anything crazy in terms of the amount of people coming in,” Tromboli said Saturday evening.
Despite early worries that an influx of up to a half-million visitors to Idaho would clog roadways, Idaho Transportation Department officials over the weekend said they were seeing nothing of the sort. As of late Sunday morning, routes near eclipse destinations like Idaho Falls and Stanley had as much as 30 to 60 percent increases in average vehicle traffic.
“ITD has witnessed a consistent trend all weekend, with vehicles moving into the path of the eclipse in stages,” ITD said in a news release.
“Each day, traffic has picked up, sometimes doubling or more. Yet, the roads have not reached critical capacity. In fact, traffic has flowed at or near speed.”
Payette County emergency officials said they’ve noticed a significant increase in traffic on U.S. 95 and 52, including travel trailers and campers. Still, “the increased traffic has not caused any local issues,” they said in a release.
In neighboring Wyoming, vehicle traffic was up by more than 131,000 vehicles over the five-year average on Saturday, state tourism officials said. Despite light traffic on Saturday, the Oregonian reported Sunday that some roads were starting to back up as an estimated 1 million visitors headed toward eclipse viewing sites. Oregon traffic officials said they’ve seen an increase in the number of wildlife being struck by vehicles as high numbers of campers and tourists push deer and other animals toward busy roadways.
ITD officials said they’re particularly interested in how traffic patterns will play out Monday as visitors leave their destinations, according to department spokesman Vince Tromboli. He said those who can wait to start their return trips should do so in an effort to stagger outgoing traffic over one or two days.
“These locations will most likely experience congestion on Monday: I-15 from Idaho Falls to Utah, US-95 at Riggins, US-93 at Craters of the Moon, US-20 near Arco, and SH-55 between Banks and Boise,” ITD said in a weekend traffic summary.
Statesman reporter Rocky Barker said Sunday afternoon that Forest Service officials had closed multiple trailheads in the Sawtooth National Forest due to the vast number of people making their way into the backcountry.
“We underestimated how many people would be in the backcountry and overestimated how many would be in the frontcountry,” said Ed Cannady with the Sawtooth National Recreation Association.
Barker said plenty of room remained in Stanley proper and on the town’s outskirts for viewing. Forest Service officials told him that news reports about giant crowds and traffic jams appear to have convinced some people to stay home.
In particular, Tromboli said, traffic is heavy on Interstate 15 heading north from Utah and south from Montana. That route leads to Idaho Falls, another hot spot for seeing the eclipse’s path of totality. According to ITD analysis, traffic northbound from Utah on I-15 has been as much as double the average hourly traffic.