Mid-Missouri experiences less traffic issues than expected during 2017 eclipse

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COLUMBIA - Missouri State Highway Patrol anticipated the 2017 eclipse would cause problems on highways and roads in mid-Missouri. With hotels in the area nearly booked to capacity, the roads were jam-packed with visitors. But after review, very few issues were reported.

Sergeant Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said emergency agencies around the state began planning for the influx of visitors last winter.

Through a series of meetings, agencies like MODOT and law enforcement came up with safety protocols for Monday’s events.

Many visitors arrived in mid-Missouri on different days, so that ultimately resulted in less traffic. The problems, White said, arose after the eclipse ended because everyone left the area at the same time.

To ensure public safety, the highway patrol increased the number of troopers on duty but said the move did not cut into the patrol’s overall budget.

“We did have an additional number of troopers, but they weren't overtime detail,” White said. “We just kind of moved troopers to areas we knew we were going to have a problem with. We saw a lot of the congestion on I-70, US 63, and US 54.”

Highway patrol Troop F said it only responded to five car crash reports. Only one crash victim sustained injuries the day of the eclipse.

But things didn't go so smoothly for other areas in Missouri. Troop B in Macon County experienced significant traffic for miles due to a storm that rolled in after the eclipse.

Sergeant Eric Brown of Troop B issued a statement asking media agencies to notify viewers of the standstill on five highways that run through the county.

“Northbound US 63 was backed up to about one mile north of Excello in Macon County.  There was also a traffic crash in the same area causing a further issue and blocking one lane. Eastbound US 36 was backed up approximately 3 miles from US 24 in Marion County,” Brown said in the statement. “There was congestion at US 24 and US 61 south of Palmyra. MO 19 at US 61 returned to a normal/manageable amount of traffic,”

MODOT, law enforcement and public service agencies eventually decongested the area.

Overall, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is satisfied with its efforts to ensure public safety during Monday’s events.