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ODOT prepares for heavy eclipse traffic, especially on I-5

ODOT Incident Responders have a plan to keep Oregon's highways safe during the eclipse. Photo by Audrey Weil.

ALBANY, Ore. -- Oregon Department of Transportation is preparing for a million travelers in Oregon for the August 21 eclipse.

"We're going to be having heavy traffic on steroids," said Joe Schieman, Lead Incident Responder in Albany.

Interstate 5 is expected to be one of the most traveled routes during the eclipse weekend, and that's his territory.

Schieman's been a first responder on Oregon's highways for more than thirty years, first doing maintenance and then as an incident responder.

"There's a lot that happens out here," he said. "Sometimes it makes you laugh and sometimes it's just a shame."

But even he doesn't know what's coming. "It's all uncharted waters."

He says the Thanksgiving holiday is usually Oregon's busiest time for travelers; last year there were about 600,000.

But the state is predicting nearly double that for the eclipse.

"You're not gonna be going very fast. If we have emergencies, how are we gonna get to em?"

Schieman said that's why ODOT is stationing responders every five miles on I-5, Friday through Tuesday, around the event.

"All of our vehicles are going to be able to push, pull and drag vehicles off the road if there's a crash."

And they're going to keep the median open.

"That's how our emergency responders, if we've got a serious accident, are going to be responding," he said.

The goal is to clear crashes and hazards quickly to avoid too much back-up, but with that many cars on the road, gridlock is inevitable.

"I expect that we're going to have a lot of rear-enders," he said. "If you do get in a minor accident, move it to the shoulder off the road. Don't leave it in the middle of the highway."

He says they'll do the best they can.

"We're pretty serious about keeping our highways open."

But they need travelers to do their part too.

ODOT has several more tips to stay safe.

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