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Wyoming: 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 Wyoming.

What worked?

  • Interactive travel map linked to web cams assisted public in identifying traffic congestion and may have helped to minimize questions from the public during the event.
  • We experienced some busies on our radio system.  (WyoLink)- training and expectations helped this.
  • Cellular was spotty in some areas at times, but mostly reliable.  Both AT&T and Verizon brought in COW’s.
  • Training for employees was good, especially in the field.  Everyone was onboard, prepared to help and positive.  The director set this expectation.
  • Assigning lead agencies was a good thing- Tourism and WOHS.
  • We released statistics daily on Patrol dispatch call volume and traffic data.  This was key with media.  Lots of social media and Facebook Live, as well.

What didn’t work?

  • Would have been nice to have had some port-a-potties!
  • Received complaints about not providing enough real-time data.  Recommend providing “Time to travel from point to point” information.
  • Could have shut down construction projects for the day of, instead of for 5 days.
  • Restricting of oversize/overweight movements wasn’t needed for all three days (day before, day of and day after).  There was confusion as to what oversize/overweight meant.

What didn’t work? (Cont.)

  • Satellite phones were difficult to use and didn’t add value.
  • Update traffic counter equipment before event and make sure everyone understands how to interpret the data.
  • Maybe have additional parking at rest areas by mowing adjacent fields.  Maybe have pump trucks pre-stationed at rest areas.
  • More frequent updates to Highway Advisory Radios (HAR’s).  Might have over-focused on social media.  Stage district PIO’s at local radio stations.  Old school media still strong in Wyoming.

How WYDOT capitalize on the experience moving forward?

  • Built extremely valuable partnerships that will assist with large-scale events in the future.
  • Combined-agency news conferences were valuable.  The pre-call conference added value, and having them led by the Governor’s Office created organization.
  • Confidence in our WyoLink radio system for future large-scale events.
  • Confidence in our cellular infrastructure.
  • Confidence in our own ability to handle something seemingly impossible.
  • Everyone remained extremely upbeat and positive.  It was almost fun!
  • We actually received very few complaints, and a ton of praise.

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

Publishing Organization

TOM Chapters
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