Valley News – Vermont promotes travel and safety tips for an easier glimpse of the eclipse

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Ask Vermont public safety officials how to most carefully navigate the April 8 solar eclipse and they advise not to stare at the “generational spectacle” with the naked eye.

Instead, they suggest focusing on the expected galaxy of gawkers circling about.

“Plan for that traffic,” Vermont Emergency Management spokesperson Mark Bosma said, “and please be patient.”

The state Agency of Transportation anticipates that up to 160,000 visitors will travel to Vermont in as many as 60,000 vehicles, all to join residents in seeing a partial eclipse starting Monday at 2:14 p.m., a 3-minute total eclipse at 3:26 p.m., then back to a partial eclipse until 4:37 p.m.

“Think of this as peak foliage weekend on steroids,” Gov. Phil Scott said.

Vermont State Police will be fully staffed on the road, authorities said, while Burlington Police will have 40 officers and support staffers on the job — the same number that’s on hand for the city’s annual July fireworks.

What’s the traffic report?

Visitors are expected to arrive over several days and depart en masse after the eclipse, according to a state study conducted with the University of Vermont’s Transportation Research Center.

The study projects the highest vehicle traffic where the eclipse’s path of totality passes over northern Vermont, starting with Burlington’s main roads, Interstate 89 and surrounding Routes 2, 7, 15 and 117. But it’s also flagging central and southern highways including Interstate 91 and Routes 4, 5, 9, 100 and 103.

Officials can’t pinpoint how many people will travel when. They simply note that if motorists stagger their arrivals and departures, everyone will avoid problems.

Then again, if more than 50,000 people assemble in Burlington, its police “do not have confidence that we can maintain traffic flow anywhere in the city,” the department concluded in a recent report.

So what should people do?

Agency of Transportation staffers are tapping social media and road signs to urge motorists to use less-traveled roads instead of larger highways and linger rather than race off after.

Specifically, officials are encouraging locals to “Hunker Down, Stay in Town” and visitors to “Clear the Way, Stay Another Day.”

The state is also inviting motorists to:

■Sign up for eclipse notifications by texting VTECLIPSE to 888-777, or receive ongoing public safety alerts by requesting them here.

■Check the 511 New England website for updates on traffic and road closures.

■Look for and label social media messages with the hashtag #VTEclipse.

■Drive with a full tank of gas, food and water in case of prolonged traffic jams.

Where should motorists avoid?

Vermont Emergency Management is offering a list of all road closures reported to its website.

In Burlington, many streets will be closed to vehicle traffic, either so they can be used by pedestrians or for parking, with a map available here.

In Duxbury and Huntington, Camel’s Hump Road will be closed to discourage visitors to the mountain.

In Montpelier, much of State Street will be closed as the capital hosts an afternoon of events.

In St. Johnsbury, parts of Main Street will be closed to accommodate public programs at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium.

And in Underhill, Mountain Road and Stevensville Road will be closed to discourage people from climbing Mount Mansfield.

Anything else?

The state has created a special eclipse website with links to public safety updates and alerts, weather forecasts, maps, events and travel information.

Vermont rest areas and welcome centers will remain open until midnight on Monday.

The state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation notes most of its trails are closed because of slippery or soggy conditions.

Vermont Emergency Management says that also goes for many local vehicle shortcuts.

“This is mud season,” Bosma said, “so dirt roads may not be the best option.”

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