SALT LAKE CITY — Enormous crowds are expected to drive from the Beehive State to Idaho and Wyoming this weekend to catch the best views of the total solar eclipse on Monday, and UDOT is warning drivers about the possibility of huge traffic delays in the hours following the event as sky-gazers head home.
On an average day, approximately 200,000 vehicles drive on I-15 in Salt Lake County, according to the Utah Department of Transportation. But as many as 50,000 additional vehicles are expected to travel through Utah this weekend, spokesman John Gleason said.
He said northbound traffic is anticipated to be heavier than normal starting from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, with heavy congestion predicted from Brigham City to the I-84 split in Tremonton in Box Elder County.
The heaviest delays are expected on Monday evening when return traffic from the eclipse coincides with the daily southbound work commute, Gleason said. UDOT is recommending that drivers evaluate their trips and try to avoid traveling on southbound I-15 during this time, if possible.
"We want to plan ahead, make sure that we're doing everything that we can to minimize delays and congestion," Gleason said.
Across the state, most UDOT projects along I-15 — such as repaving from Brigham City to Honeyville — will be suspended and all lanes opened to help reduce delays, he said. Some areas will have traffic shifts in place or have minor work that should not affect drivers, he noted.
"It's important for us not to add to the congestion," he said. "We want to do everything that we can to make sure that traffic flows as smoothly as it can throughout the next few days."
In southern Utah near St. George, lanes will be shifted and narrowed with reduced speed limits for a widening project, and shoulder work is scheduled on I-15 south of Fillmore for bridge maintenance, he added.
For northern Utah, the agency recommends drivers prepare for potential emergency conditions. Suggestions include keeping a full tank of gas in the event fuel may be in short supply; have extra food, water and snacks; expect spotty or nonexistent cellular coverage; and plan to spend extra time before returning home to avoid heavier traffic.
Officials also empasize that drivers should not stop on roads or park on shoulders to watch the eclipse.
"This is really a once-in-a-lifetime event," Gleason said. "The excitement continues to build. It's a hard type of event to predict, but we want to make sure that we're making plans (just in case)."