With just one week to go before the 2017 total solar eclipse, municipalities, businesses and organizations are all gearing up for additional traffic and people.
Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that from at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, to 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, left turns from southbound Cambria Road to eastbound Illinois 13 (toward Marion) will be restricted. Motorists travelling that direction will have to choose an alternative route. Turns will be allowed from Cambria Road to westbound Illinois 13 (toward Carbondale).
According Keith Miley, IDOT operations engineer, maintenance field staff will be available 24 hours a day during the weekend to work with Illinois State Police to assist with any traffic situations that may arise.
They will implement intelligent traffic control systems to provide real time information to motorists on any type of backups or delays, so they can choose alternate routes. Also, some lane restrictions on Interstate 57, Illinois 13 and U.S. 51 will be lifted.
“We want to reduce any restriction that would be a problem for motorists,” Miley said. “We have been and continue to work Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Illinois State Police to prepare for the weekend.”
A rumor is circulating that Illinois 13 will be closed during the eclipse. Miley said IDOT has no plans to shut down the busy roadway.
Miley suggests motorists do not stop on the roadway or shoulder and do not wear eclipse glasses while driving. He warned that drivers also need to watch for pedestrians.
“I think people need to pay particular attention in the city of Carbondale. We expect increased bike and pedestrian traffic near Illinois 13 and U.S. 51,” Miley said.
Carterville Police sent an alert Monday saying Grand Avenue will remain open until 8 a.m. Monday. Road work will be from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., to allow parents and staff of Carterville schools easier access to the schools.
Ameren is also preparing for eclipse crowds.
“One of the things that we do whenever we have any type of large-scale event, is to have is have plenty of staff on hand in case something happens to the energy grid,” Brian Bretsch of Ameren said.
Field workers will be on standby, and Ameren sent a couple portable sub stations to the Carbondale area. Bretsch compared it to planning for severe weather.
“For us it’s business as usual. We will continue to monitor the delivery system and can go into storm mode, if we have to,” Bretsch said. “More than anything, we want to make sure safety is the utmost for us and our customers.”
AT&T is boosting their network from coast to coast to support customers in the path of totality, so they can share this milestone with friends and family.
“In Carbondale, we’re bringing in a Cell on Wheels (COW) for the large number of people expected at Southern Illinois University,” ATT spokesperson Katie Nagus said. “While our COWs may not jump over the moon, they will keep you connected.”
A COW is basically a portable cell site that provides extra 4G LTE coverage and capacity for large events. With network deployments, capacity is expected to be boosted to about 160 percent of average.
Throughout the event, AT&T will monitor network performance from a national and local level through our GNOC (Global Network Operations Center) and local teams who will be onsite monitoring performance and data usage.
Rae Goldsmith, chief communications and marketing officer at SIU, said the university has a large committee of people working on everything from health and safety to making sure the food is in the right spots.
“We are taking care of a million details, from making sure the wiring is connected to finishing programs to making sure all speakers ready. So, there is a lot happening,” Goldsmith said.
Paved parking is sold out on campus, but some parking is available in grassy lots. The ticketed event at Saluki Stadium also is sold out. Many other eclipse events on campus are open to the public at no charge.
The City of Carbondale has a lot of “way finding” signs guiding visitors to parking lots, remote shuttle buses and events, according to Amy Fox, Carbondale Public Relations Officer. She expects port-a-potties, stages and tents to go up toward the end of the week.
“Everything will be in place by early Saturday morning,” Fox said.
The city is planning a ribbon cutting ceremony for its Streetscapes Project at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Friendship Plaza, Mill Street and Illinois Avenue. Fox said a project to improve the lobby at City Hall will be wrapped up as well.
“It’s a mad dash to the finish,” Fox said.
Southern Illinois Healthcare has increased staff at all locations and is preparing for parking. The public is asked to not to park in SIH clinic and hospital lots.
“We want to keep those spaces open for patients and ambulances,” said Rosslind Rice, communications coordinator for SIH.
All SIH locations have been participating in disaster drills over the past several months to prepare for the types of incidents that might occur.
Jody Johnson who serves on Goreville Village Board and works for University of Illinois Extension said the village also is preparing for Aug. 21. They will host a private event from U of I, as well as a public event in Goreville Park. He is reminding residents of the small town to lock their vehicles and homes, something that not all residents of small towns do.
“We have limited resources, but at the same time, we are pretty hospitable,” Johnson said. “One things is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting weekend.”