Highway traffic Saturday/Sunday before the eclipse, PNW?
August 8, 2017 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Dingowife's close friend is going to be in the Seattle area from across the country. We live in Oregon and decided to try to meet up. Friend booked a trip over Eclipse weekend/day without realizing. How bad is it gonna be to try to drive from Eugene to Seattle-area on Friday, and back to Eugene on Sat or Sun?

This is ridiculous. Dingowife's friend didn't even want/intend to make an "eclipse trip" and somehow planned a visit during UNPRECEDENTED MAYHEM.

So.... the friend is staying in the Seattle area and visiting Mt Rainier, starting the Friday before eclipse, and flying out of SEA on Tuesday. We are considering driving north from Eugene Oregon on Friday, visiting him, and driving back south on Saturday or Sunday morning to hopefully avoid complete traffic meltdown from the eclipse. Do any Washingtonians have a local sense of how bad the traffic is expected to be heading south? Is Sunday expected to be demonstrably worse than Saturday? Are both days expected to be disasters? Is there any reason to believe any smaller roads will be any less horrible than I-5?

We could possibly entertain driving south on Tuesday, after the eclipse, but IDK how much better that would be, and we probably don't want to stay in Seattle Friday-Tuesday anyway, so it would mean driving north to Seattle on Saturday/Sunday instead.
posted by nakedmolerats to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Driving north to Seattle before the eclipse should be fine. Driving south towards the zone before the eclipse will not be fine
posted by bq at 4:55 PM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't try it; just trying to bike Portland to the coast on a regular holiday weekend was pretty terrible. If you do go, I'd bet you wouldn't have any trouble finding rideshare folks off Craigslist to pay the way.

(btw anyone in North Portland on the eclipse day is welcome to come hang out on our green roof.)
posted by aniola at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2017

The locals are pretty much being told it's going to be some variation of insane/horrible. I'm in the Gorge, and while we've been intending to drive a little south for the view, I'm really second-guessing it. I just can't imagine the 100K people just Madras is anticipating... and my little but very touristy town, just outside the "good" zone, is probably going to be insane enough that I want to stay home all freaking weekend and not even think about driving into town, let alone anywhere else...
posted by stormyteal at 8:29 PM on August 8, 2017

So we're expecting a million folks in our state of four million. Many of them will be driving down I5 on Saturday and Sunday. Many parks are letting folks stay overnight on Sunday night.

I wouldn't do this unless you are okay with this taking many several hours longer than it should, and possibly being stuck on the highway overnight.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:36 PM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The predictions of dire gloom and Road Warrior type escapades on the highways are probably a little overblown.

That said, you'd be driving right through the heart of the eclipse zone, both coming and going.
I-5 can be a crapshoot in heavy traffic during the best of times, this will not be the best of times.

It only takes one accident to close that road for hours. I fully expect that to happen eclipse weekend.

You could try one of the side roads, 99W through the valley or 214/211/213 on the other side of I-5.
But again, you're going straight through the eclipse zone along with everyone else.
Worse, those roads dump you into the small towns that have been heavily advertised as viewing locations.
There are a number of local roads that will get you north past Salem, but you're looking at turning a 5 hour trip into 8 or more.

Friday, if you went north off-peak times, way early or way late, you'd probably be ok. But I wouldn't attempt to re-enter the valley on Sunday, especially.
By Monday afternoon, I'd expect it to be better heading towards the eclipse zone, as people there will be exiting, but it's probably still going to suck.

If you decide to venture out into the madness, have a full tank of gas (before Friday), plenty of water and food, a book or other entertainment, and be prepared to sit in traffic for some time.
posted by madajb at 10:53 PM on August 8, 2017

> Many parks are letting folks stay overnight on Sunday night

People with reservations at the overflow parks (I don't know what they're called, but the ones that don't usually have reservations) are being told to get there by Saturday. So, traffic is going to be horrible all weekend. Wheee.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:44 AM on August 12, 2017

Sorry, I spread misinformation: it looks like the Oregon State Parks department is being more flexible about arrival times now than they originally were. Ignore my comment up there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:12 AM on August 12, 2017

Hi there - it's nakedmolerats' wife. Thanks for all of the input regarding my drive to Olympia and back this past Friday/Saturday. I must admit that I cavalierly clung to my original plans and did my "drive up Friday / drive back Saturday evening" trek regardless. And I'm happy to report that the Gods of Optimism and Bad Judgment were on my side, and there was little to no traffic (beyond the usual slowdown near Portland, and a brief random ... something ... in Washington) - yay! So happy I got to go see my friend without dire, traffic-clogged consequences.

Looking at the traffic indicators on Google Maps this morning (Sunday), I-5 still looks shockingly clear at the moment. The next 24ish hours should be interesting. I'm almost tempted to don my eclipse glasses and drive on up to Corvalis tomorrow morning, but that's probably one poor decision too far.

At any rate, I know nobody can predict this sort of thing beforehand, so the comments here made sense in light of the warnings we've been hearing from ODOT and the like. Based on your advice I definitely was gassed up and well-supplied for what could easily have been a pretty bad situation, so thanks again for the input!
posted by DingoMutt at 9:06 AM on August 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

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