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Missouri: 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 Missouri.

Communications with Media

Consistent safety messaging was communicated to the public (some obvious but it is better not make any assumptions). Example of safety messages that Missouri DOT used are:

  • Don’t stop along the interstate or shoulder.
  • Exit the highway to view or photograph the event.
  • Don’t take photographs while driving.
  • Turn your headlights on.
  • Watch out for pedestrians.
  • Prepare for congestion on the day before, day of and day after the eclipse.

Lessons Learned – MoDOT

  • Build your case early. As much as a year ahead of time.
  • Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  Which headline is worse: MoDOT over prepares. Or:  Gridlock on Intestates because of lack of preparation.
  • Although traffic turnout wasn’t close to even our low estimate, it was still congested enough to cause back ups.
  • States that aren’t in the path of totality were just as affected by the traffic as we were.  The neighboring states had traffic issues due to the public trying to get to and from the event.  It was very hard to get some of the bordering states engaged, even though it was their populations who were on the move to our state.

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

Content Type

Case Studies & Lessons Learned

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