This story was originally published in Concrete Construction.
Aug. 21, 2017, by most measures will be a normal summer day for Nashville, Tenn. However a solar phenomenon that hasn’t reached the U.S. in over a century will create a twilight zone feel across the state (and for that matter a large portion of the United States). What meteorologists are dubbing the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” will be most noticeable along a 60-mile-wide stretch of land that happens to be directly over Nashville.
The perfect location of the Music City has created a huge boost to the tourism industry with 50,000 extra visitors expected and another $15 million-20 million in potential revenue generated. While city officials have welcomed the boost, construction and public works administrators have uneasily accepted the work that comes with the influx.
Construction timelines have been ramped up in the commercial sector to open new businesses, restaurants, and shops. Nashville’s NBC affiliate reported historic wait times for contractors, and new commercial projects have been put on hold until after the eclipse.
Infrastructure projects also have adapted timelines, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Almost all state-run construction will be halted from Friday, Aug 18 to Tuesday, Aug 22. Other construction and non-emergency work will be limited based on the influx of tourists.
Major roads in and out of the city are expected to be at a standstill as traffic floods highways, single-lane roads, and rural areas. Nashville airport has also begun preparing for incoming traffic after major airlines announced eclipse viewing flights.
Tennessee is not alone in their pre-planning for eclipse related traffic. Most all of the states that fall in the eclipses path from South Carolina to Washington have limited or suspended construction during the week of the eclipse.
Idaho: The DOT has announced they will suspend most construction and repairs Eclipse weekend. The state is currently developing an incident response plan as well as work schedule for flaggers to help with traffic.
Wyoming: The state will suspend road construction in heavy flow areas including areas within the path of totality.
Nebraska: The state will suspend construction along highways and main thoroughfares. Wide load Construction vehicle permits will also be suspended.
Kansas: Road construction will be suspended in the northeastern part of the state.
Missouri: Missouri DOT dedicated an entire webpage to preparing its visitors and residents for eclipse related issues. As expected construction will be suspended.
Illinois: The state has announced construction and repairs will come to a halt eclipse weekend. Non-essential state employees will not be required to come to work on the 21st.
Kentucky: The southern portion of the state will see heavy traffic and possible construction stoppages.
North Carolina: Road construction and repairs will be suspended in areas in and around the path of totality.
South Carolina: All road construction and lane closures will cease the weekend prior to the eclipse.
Oregon has imposed some of the most severe restrictions as Portland, the next largest city with similar views to Nashville, is expecting a record breaking influx of tourists. The state will “completely shut down” all road construction and repairs, as well as suspend all over width permits for construction vehicles.
“We are expecting a million people in a state that has a population of four million. We have people that want to just pop in and drive up like it’s a Saturday football game, it’s not going to be like that. There is going to be no place to move, it’s going to be compact,” Oregon DOT spokesman Dave Thompson said.
TDOT has developed an “emergency action plan” to limit accidents and incidents related to the crash. What crash? Starting a week before the eclipse, highway overhead signs will educate drivers. The department will also deploy more HELP trucks and create queuing areas for emergency personnel to assist in case of accidents.
Intensive planning and coordination with several other state agencies, including the Highway Patrol and Emergency Management Agency, have left Tennessee well prepared.
“Nashville is accustomed to large events, so we are not worried. Our goal is to be prepared to respond in the event it’s necessary. Our biggest concern is people stopping either in a travel lane or along the shoulders during the eclipse,” TDOT Communications Director B.J. Doughty said.
Still, with two weeks to go until the “once in a lifetime event,” construction and public works are already experiencing some of the effects. Changing schedules and adapting timelines have forced officials to slow down during their busiest construction season.
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