With the highly anticipated total solar eclipse expected on April 8, roadway safety professionals across the U.S. have an opportunity to help their communities plan for a safe experience during this extraordinary celestial event.  

Spanning from Texas to Maine, the eclipse is expected to draw millions of spectators eager to witness the spectacle of the moon completely obscuring the sun. 

States such as Arkansas–which expects as many as 1.5 million visitors–and Oklahoma recently announced efforts underway to prepare for the anticipated traffic issues.

Lessons can be learned from previous eclipses, as was discussed during a recent webinar hosted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), with participation from federal, state and local transportation agencies. Some areas identified were planning for special events, traffic management and infrastructure resource allocation.  

Traffic management challenges: Previous total solar eclipses, such as the 2017 eclipse that traversed the continental United States, demonstrated the impact such events can have on roadways. Traffic jams, accidents and delays related to the eclipse were reported in many areas, emphasizing the need for proactive traffic management strategies to mitigate anticipated disruptions and ensure public safety. 

Infrastructure and resource allocation plans: Adequate infrastructure and resource allocation are essential for effectively managing eclipse-related traffic impacts. Previous eclipses have shown the importance of strategic planning and coordination among transportation agencies, emergency responders and ATSSA member companies to ensure that sufficient personnel, equipment and supplies are available to address potential safety hazards and emergencies. 

ATSSA members could take steps to help their communities prepare. Below are five areas for possible engagement.

Proactive planning and preparedness with local officials: ATSSA member companies can engage with transportation agencies and local authorities to develop comprehensive eclipse preparedness plans tailored to the specific needs and challenges of their respective regions. This could involve conducting risk assessments, identifying high-traffic areas and implementing targeted traffic management solutions to keep roadways safe and people moving. 

Offer innovative traffic management solutions: ATSSA members possess innovative technologies and traffic management solutions they can offer to help public officials address eclipse-related traffic challenges This could include deploying dynamic message signs, traffic monitoring cameras and temporary/portable traffic control devices to provide real-time traffic updates, communicate safety messages and optimize traffic flow during the event. 

Have personnel properly trained: Ensure the workforce is adequately trained and certified in temporary traffic control and work zone safety ahead of the event. Specialized training programs and refresher courses can equip employees with the knowledge and skills needed to manage traffic safely and efficiently in eclipse-affected areas. 

Develop partnerships: Collaborate with other industry stakeholders, emergency responders and local communities to enhance the effectiveness of roadway safety efforts during the eclipse. ATSSA member companies frequently work to establish collaborative partnerships, participating in joint planning exercises to share resources, expertise and best practices for managing traffic and ensuring public safety.

Prepare to conduct a post-event evaluation: Following the eclipse, conduct thorough post-event evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the preparedness efforts and identify areas for improvement. By documenting lessons learned and implementing corrective actions, stakeholders can enhance their resilience and readiness for future large-scale events. 

By prioritizing proactive planning and utilizing innovation and collaboration, ATSSA member companies can play a pivotal role in creating a safe and memorable experience for witnesses to this historic celestial event.

–Jim Rhine, ATSSA Innovation & Technical Services Manager 

Published Date

March 6, 2024

Post Type

  • News

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