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Illinois: Lessons learned from 2017 Solar Eclipse


On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse moved west to east across the United States, covering fourteen states. This was a special event that required extensive planning by transportation agencies across the united states. It is important to look back at the 2017 Total Eclipse to see how state and local agencies managed the traffic operations for the traveling public.

The National Operations Center of Excellence will play an active role by being the facilitator in gathering the after action reports, action plan reports, and coordination plan reports. In six years, on April 8, 2024, we will have another total solar eclipse in the U.S. The totality starts at Mexico, crosses U.S. in a diagonal from Texas to Maine, and passes through Canada. NOCoE intends to be the main point of reference for transportation agencies by creating a national repository for the 2024 solar eclipse.

In April 2018, NOCoE hosted a virtual peer exchange where representatives from 10 agencies described their findings and observations about the 2017 solar eclipse in an online web meeting. As a proceeding to the peer exchange, NOCoE has created a dedicated webpage for each state to gather the agency’s lessons learned and findings on the 2017 solar eclipse. The below content includes the information gathered from the state of Illinois.

IDOT Preparations

•Attended meetings with local’s

•Attended meeting with Illinois Energy Management Agency

•Attended training on IEMA software

•Limited leave time for Operations staff

•Limited lane closures on construction projects

•Limited turning movements on key routes

IDOT Activities on the Day of Solar Eclipse

•Imbedded IDOT staff at IEMA – Unified Area Command as requested

•Imbedded IDOT staff at IEMA – Area Commands as requested

•Placed Smart Message Boards with traffic detection on I-57

•Expanded communications staff at District Level

•Reacted as requested by IEMA

Lessons Learned

•Limit lane closure 200+ miles away from event on major route

•Work with local law enforcement

•Any stop sign or small community backed up traffic

•Traffic backup were significant but accidents were not

•Most State of Illinois staff will not be around for next one.

Operations Area of Practice

    Interagency Agreements / Cooperation / MOUs
    Planning for Operations
    Planned Special Events Traffic Management

Organizational Capability Element

    Freeway Operations
    Planned Special Event Management
    Local government/MPO/RTPA cooperation

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