Traffic into Central Oregon, especially to cities such as Madras in the path of totality for Monday’s solar eclipse, was picking up as of Sunday afternoon, with bumper-to-bumper traffic jams reported in Madras on U.S. Highway 26 and U.S. Highway 97, according to reports from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The Oregon National Guard said Sunday they had “a handful” of soldiers in Madras assisting in traffic control.
About 11,000 vehicles traveled north on Highway 97 through Chemult on Saturday, nearly triple what that stretch of highway saw on the average Saturday in August 2016.
In addition, Highway 26 between Warm Springs and Madras had more than 50 percent higher traffic volume Saturday compared with Saturdays in August 2016.
ODOT’s TripCheck website is identifying roads into Madras with “bumper to bumper” and “heavy traffic jam” labels to make drivers aware of conditions. ODOT’s camera at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 26 showed a long line of cars at about 2 p.m. on Sunday.
But the heavy traffic was to be expected, and ODOT began planning for the eclipse more than a year ago. So far, officials at the Central Oregon Emergency Info Network are saying the pre-eclipse planning has paid off.
On Sunday, the network posted on Facebook that despite the higher volume of cars, traffic was flowing. ODOT stationed 21 traffic mitigation teams along Highway 97 from Shaniko to La Pine, and in communities such as Sisters, Prineville and Mitchell to move disabled vehicles from roadways, help travelers and keep drivers safe.
Generally, highways have been safe, according to a post by the Central Oregon Emergency Info Network.