A solar eclipse taking place on August 21 is expected to create major traffic issues in many locations across the U.S while as many as 7 million people commute to see the once in a lifetime event.

The “Worst Traffic Jam in American History”?

The August 21st eclipse will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse since 1918.

The eclipse can best be viewed on a central swath of cities located in fourteen different states, including St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Portland, and Denver. Because 2/3 of Americans are within a 500 mile drive of the eclipse viewing band, eclipse watchers could take to the roads en masse and cause what Forbes magazine speculates could be “the worst traffic jam in American history.

Because of the nature of the eclipse, it is impossible for experts to say exactly how many extra vehicles will be on the road. Eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler estimates that 1.85 million and 7.4 million people may commute to view the eclipse.

DOT Prepares For Eclipse

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a Solar Eclipse Fact Sheet to help states and local transportation offices prepare for the event. The DOT fact sheet describes the solar eclipse as:

  • A planned special event for which there has been no recent precedent in the United States.
  • A planned special event that is a feat of nature and not man-made.
  • A planned special event with many different events across the country.
  • An act of nature that is not a disaster.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says that they are already bracing for a major traffic event near Portland on August 21: “We could be seeing travelers coming in from Washington. We could see travelers coming up this way from California at that time. We’re really on the alert for a major traffic event — probably nothing like the state has seen before.

ODOT is recommending that drivers arrive at their locations a few days early and be prepared to say until August 22.

The fourteen states in the solar eclipse path listed in chronological order of viewing time are:


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