Observer staff

Wildlife/pedestrians on roadway

Travelers can expect to see more wildlife and pedestrians along state highways due to thousands of visitors spread around rural Oregon.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of vehicle vs. animal strikes over the last few days," said ODOT District 14 Manager Paul Woodworth. "Our John Day staff notes that with visitors encroaching on farmers' fields and camping areas, deer and other wildlife are being pushed into traffic at higher rates."

Over the past few days there have been 21 animal strikes along eastern Oregon state routes, with five strikes on Thursday, five on Friday, and 11 strikes on Saturday.

The various eclipse events around the state are also resulting in increased pedestrian traffic along the highway shoulders as they move between campe sites, local communities and event activities.

Motorists are advised to be extra cautious and keep an eye out for two and four legged local residents and visitors along roadways.

Traffic on Eastern Oregon highways is beginning to increase as travelers head towards the zone of totality for the 2017 eclipse that occurs Monday.

Campgrounds are filling up and travelers are reminded to slow down and watch for congestion where vehicles are entering or exiting camping and event sites, and to watch for pedestrian traffic along the roadways, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“We are seeing an increase in traffic as travelers head to eclipse events or to find a camping spot.” ODOT District 14 Manager Paul Woodworth said. “Some campgrounds are filling up and in some areas additional sites are being set up. Another issue we are seeing is more pedestrians walking along the highway shoulder as they move between campgrounds and event sites. All motorists and pedestrians need to pay extra attention, avoid distractions and keep your eyes on the roadway.”

ODOT has been preparing for eclipse traffic for several months. Employees are staffed to provide coverage day and night through next Tuesday.

“We have strategically positioned teams of maintenance crews who are ready to respond to incidents,” Woodworth said. “These crash teams can help move stalled or stranded vehicles away from travel lanes to help keep traffic moving. Maintaining safety and keeping traffic moving are our primary goals.”

Traffic is moving a bit slower along sections of Interstate 84 and secondary highways throughout Eastern Oregon. ODOT expects today and Monday to be busier and reminds everyone to plan ahead before getting behind the wheel. Be prepared by checking for updated highway conditions, traffic speed data and reports of road closures or delays.

“We are expecting a 40 percent increase in traffic on Sunday, and higher numbers on Monday,” Woodworth said. “We will do what we can to keep traffic moving, but motorists should expect long delays.”

If traveling, be prepared with a full tank of gas, snacks, water and a lot of patience. If you do get stuck in a traffic jam, stay calm and be kind to others. Stay on main highways as much as possible and avoid blindly following GPS navigation devices onto unfamiliar roads.