Eclipse blocks sun, highways statewide
Weekend traffic in Carbon County up by 37,203 vehicles
Figures released by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) Tuesday verified what local residents observed over the weekend: traffic was terrible thanks to the influx of visitors for the solar eclipse.
According to a release by WYDOT, the number of cars estimated to be on the road on Monday was 68 percent higher than the five year average for August 21. Overall, the state had 536,000 more vehicles on Wyoming roads Monday compared to average traffic.
The influx of traffic snarled interstate highways in the state, especially near Cheyenne. At the Colorado border, I-25 had a 167 percent increase in traffic-a total of 38,247 cars-according to WYDOT. On I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins, there was an estimated 5,116 additional vehicles in transit Monday, a 45 percent increase in traffic.
"The Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Highway Patrol worked together to ensure traffic flowed as smoothly as possible with the amount of traffic we saw on Monday," Bill Panos, WYDOT Director said. "These are historic traffic numbers for Wyoming. Our maintenance crews and troopers did an outstanding job under extremely difficult circumstances."
Doug McGee, public affairs manager at WYDOT, said there had been steady increases in traffic throughout the week prior to the eclipse, but the increases in traffic became particularly noticeable around Wednesday.
According to McGee, Carbon County roads had increases of 13,303 vehicles Monday, 6,600 Sunday, 11,300 Saturday and about 6,000 Friday.
Saratoga had a significant uptick in traffic, according to Saratoga Chief of Police Robert Bifano. The increase was noticeable, he said, but he had no estimates as to the numbers of cars or people drawn into the town over the weekend.
"I can tell you I've been here nine years and I've never seen that much traffic in town," Bifano said. "At one point there was a line of cars passing through three car lengths apart from one end of town to the other."
Bifano noted that other than making it harder to get around town, the eclipse and the traffic and people that came with it did not create any significant disturbances in town as far as crime or traffic accidents.
Most of the eclipse traffic seemed to be passing through town and not staying long, Bifano said. The biggest impact was reports by local businesses, particularly those that sell fuel, reporting large increases in business.
According to McGee of WYDOT, that agency does not have an estimate of the number of people who were in the state for the eclipse. McGee said he believed the Wyoming Department of Tourism was conducting a study on the economic impacts of the eclipse on the state, but such figures would not be available for some time.