2024 eclipse expected to bring traffic jams to Vermont

A map showing the projected path of the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (NASA)

A map showing the projected path of the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (NASA)



Published: 03-26-2024 4:22 PM

As the 2024 total solar eclipse draws near, so do the hordes of people expected to visit Vermont to see it. Public safety officials say they’re doing what they can to minimize risk.

Although the exact number of people coming to Vermont remains unknown, estimates range from tens of thousands to 160,000 visitors, according to Christine Hinkel Ianni, a spokesperson for the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

“We envision the potential for a lot of individuals to wake up on Monday morning in a 400-mile radius and decide that they might want to go see an eclipse,” Eric Forand, director of Vermont Emergency Management, said of the April 8 event.

To prepare for the event, officials have been working to ensure adequate access to cell service and bathrooms, among other necessities, according to Forand, and all state police officers will be deployed that day. 

“As a state, I feel like we are ready to go into this,” he said. 

He added, “We’re going to continue to push the messaging about individual preparations and planning and that’s what’s going to make this go smooth.”

Burlington, which lies in the path of totality and is therefore expected to draw many eclipse tourists, is expecting anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 visitors, according to Zach Williamson, the city’s events and festival director. 

Williamson said the city expects to establish large viewing sites across Burlington’s parks, with hundreds of portable bathrooms, extra trash receptacles and dumpsters, and emergency personnel. 

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“You just might be sitting in traffic for a little while,” Williamson said. “But from an actual safety standpoint, we feel good about it.”

State officials say they are confident that the eclipse will not result in major incidents. 

“We’ve talked to a couple of other states that have had similar events and for the most part they were pretty calm,” Forand said. “People come, they watch the event and they go home.” 

However, it is the “going home” part that might cause problems. 

“We are anticipating that travelers will try to exit immediately following the eclipse in the afternoon,” said Jayna Morse, the director of finance and administration for the Agency of Transportation and incident commander for the event. She said an influx of visitors is expected to start days before the eclipse. 

“There will be a backup in the areas most closely aligned with the center of the pathway of the eclipse,” Morse said, including northern parts of I-89, Route 100, Route 7, Route 2, Route 5 and Route 22A.

Morse said state agencies have been planning for the eclipse since the fall.