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Extensive infrastructure planning preceded solar eclipse

Extensive infrastructure planning preceded solar eclipse

August 16th, 2017 by Philip Joens in Local News

Parks, and Recreation maintenance employess make improvements to the North Jefferson City Recreational Area. The city is expecting thousands of visitors for the solar eclipse, and the area will function as a campground for the weekend.

Photo by Mikala Compton /News Tribune.

State and city officials feel prepared as they wait for a crush of visitors to hit Mid-Missouri this weekend for Monday's total solar eclipse.

The Missouri Department of Transportation and the Jefferson City Police Department recently finalized traffic plans to get visitors in and out of Jefferson City smoothly Aug. 21.

Local hospitals, meanwhile, said they could see an increase in patients with eye injuries.

The moon will pass between the sun and Earth during Monday's solar eclipse. Parts of 14 states, including all of Jefferson City and much of Mid-Missouri, will be able to see a total solar eclipse, where the moon appears to completely cover the sun for about two and a half minutes. It will be the first total solar eclipse visible over the contiguous United States since 1979.

Because of its rarity, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau is preparing for up to 50,000 visitors. Each Independence Day, Jefferson City's Salute to America festivities also draw about 50,000 participants. The eclipse is expected to draw tourists from at least 14 other states and several other countries.

CVB Executive Director Diane Gillespie said preparation is similar to Salute to America preparation.

"We've used that as the road map," Gillespie said. "A lot of the same people from the public safety side that's involved in the planning for the Salute are involved in this."

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During Salute to America, though, most festivities take place downtown. Some festivities during the weekend will take place at the Missouri State Capitol, and downtown restaurants also expect a boost.

About half of the eclipse festivities will take place at the North Jefferson City Recreation Area, where dozens of visitors are expected to camp. That's made planning a little more challenging, Gillespie said.

"A lot of the basics were put in place (by Salute to America); it's just looking at how you service the North Jefferson City and the Capitol area," Gillespie said.

The city has space for 5,000 cars to park at the recreation area. Additional parking spots will be available for $10 each at the nearby 63 Diamonds baseball fields, making for 7,500 parking spaces north of the river. A shuttle will run in a loop Monday from the recreation area to the Capitol. It will run down U.S. 54/U.S 63, down Main Street, turn right onto Broadway Street then right onto McCarty Street. The shuttle will drop off and pick up passengers near the intersection of Broadway and West High streets until 3 p.m. Monday.

Jefferson City Police Lt. Dave Williams said both sides of Fourth Street in North Jefferson City will be blocked to vehicle traffic to accommodate shuttle service. Downtown, West High Street will be closed from Jefferson Street to Broadway.

JCPD decided to close the 100 and 200 blocks of West High Street because NASA plans to set up its "Journey to Tomorrow" museum exhibit in front of the steps at the Missouri State Capitol, Williams said. NASA TV also will film the eclipse from the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court.

"With the media trucks and vendors we have, that entire block will be closed," Williams said.

Hay wagons will take people from the recreation area to a nearby eclipse-themed corn maze at Fischer Farms.

 

Planning ahead

The Missouri Department of Transportation is preparing for as many as 1 million visitors to come to Missouri on Monday. That could create a lot of traffic headaches.

MoDOT said in an Aug. 8 news release traffic is expected to be heavier than normal on interstates and major routes around Jefferson City, Columbia and Hermann. Because of that, drivers may want to plan ahead Aug. 21 and give themselves extra time to get to their destinations. Luckily, the department also planned ahead.

Work to install a new bridge deck on U.S. 63 South was finished Aug. 9. Work began June 5, and MoDOT spokeswoman Sally Oxenhandler said the department wanted the work finished before the eclipse. She said the agency realized months ago that the project could hamper traffic if it wasn't finished before the eclipse.

"That project surfaced as one that could potentially cause problems," Oxenhandler said. "We negotiated the contract with an incentive to finish before Aug. 21."

Given that North Jefferson City lies in Callaway County, it's created a unique situation in planning for a large-scale event, Williams said. JCPD has been working with sheriffs' departments in Cole and Callaway counties, as well as MoDOT and the Missouri Highway Patrol, to create a traffic management and security plan.

Traffic likely will back up on U.S. 50, U.S. 54 and U.S. 63, but the congestion won't be that bad, Williams said.

"All the routes we normally anticipate traffic backups because of the bridge, we think they're going to happen," Williams said. "Any person that has to work that day should give themselves a little extra time, but we don't anticipate hours of gridlock."

Williams said the city has gone through its normal security precautions for large events like Salute to America or gubernatorial inaugurations.

"We're taking precautions like we would for any other event," Williams said.

One precaution includes closing the pedestrian bridge on the Missouri River Bridge from 12:30-2 p.m. Monday. Officials realized the bridge would be a prime spot for viewing the eclipse but worried that so many people would be on the narrow bridge they'd be unable to access anyone with a medical emergency.

"They're afraid people are going to get on the bridge and they're not going to move," Gillespie said. "If somebody gets overheated and passes out, they're afraid they can't get to them."

Missouri's Office of Administration also planned ahead. Non-essential executive department state offices in Cole County will be closed Monday. OA Commissioner Sarah Steelman said in a July 28 news release that the state decided to decrease congestion around the Capitol and keep visitors safe.

The move also will free up about 3,500 parking spaces, making for 5,000 parking spaces available downtown, said Jill Snodgrass, president of Daily Plan-It, which leads the organization of the Capital Eclipse Celebration with the CVB. Downtown parking, including metered spots and state lots, will be free Monday, Snodgrass said.

The final touch will be an aesthetic one. Jefferson City plans to turn off city street lights on High Street. OA plans to shut off lights on top of the Capitol dome, but it will keep street lights around the Capitol on in the interest of public safety and security.

Britt Smith, operations division director for Jefferson City, said the decision was made to make the area darker for visitors on High Street and to accommodate the NASA TV broadcast across from the Capitol.

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SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

SATURDAY

 Camping, all day, North Jefferson Recreation Area, 927 4th St. Cost: $75; available Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

 Hotter N Hell 5K Fun Run, 9 a.m-noon, Jefferson City Fire Department Training Facility, 2304 Hyde Park Road. Registration opens 7:30 a.m. Race starts 9 a.m. Cost: $30.

 Eclipse Excitement, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Osage County Library, Linn. Cost: Free.

Mini Carnival, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. North Jefferson City by the Pavilion. Cost: tickets.

 Bicycle Pub Crawl, 4 p.m., starts at Red Wheel Bike Shop, 400 W. Main St., and travels to several Jefferson City bars. Cost: Free ride, but participants must bring cash for drinks. Must wear bike helmet and have a bike taillight and headlight. Ride ends at Capital Eclipse Party presented by Skyfall Vineyards in downtown Jefferson City.

 Eclipse Crop Circle Corn Maze, 6-9 p.m., Fischer Farms, North Jefferson City by Noren River Access. Cost: $5.

 Capital Eclipse Party presented by SkyFall Vineyards, 6-9 p.m., downtown Jefferson City. Free to attend, $2 over 21 wristbands to purchase alcoholic beverages.

SUNDAY

 Camping, all day, North Jefferson Recreation Area, 927 4th St. Cost: $75; available Sunday and Monday.

Capital City Pedal Tours, tours begin at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. at Noren River Access. Cost: $25 per rider.

 Breakfast with an Astronaut, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Capital Plaza Hotel. Event sold out.

 Scholastic Education Series, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Capitol and Missouri River Regional Library, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Cost: Free.

 NASA "Journey to Tomorrow" Exhibit, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Capitol steps, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Cost: Free.

 Solar Eclipse Programs, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Missouri River Regional Library, 214 Adams St. Cost: Free.

Total Eclipse of the Park, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Riverside Park, 1425 Riverside Drive. Cost: Free.

Mini Carnival, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., North Jefferson City by the Pavilion. Cost: tickets.

 Eclipse Crop Circle Corn Maze, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fischer Farms, North Jefferson City by Noren River Access. Cost: $5.

 Eclipse Photography Meetup, 6-7 p.m., Spectators Bar & Grill, 232 E. High St.

 Dark Side of the Moon Concert, 8-10 p.m., Missouri State Capitol South Lawn, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Cost: Free

 Nighttime Telescope Viewing Meetup, Missouri State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., 9-11 p.m.

MONDAY

 Camping, all day, North Jefferson Recreation Area, 927 4th St. Cost: $75.

Eclipse Gravel Ride, 8 a.m., begins at Red Wheel Bike Shop, 400 W. Main St., and rides through North Jefferson City. Cost: Free.

 Power Up/Eclipse Watch Party, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., State Technical College of Missouri, Linn.

 Jefferson City Capital Eclipse Festival, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., North Jefferson City Recreation Area, 927 4th St. Cost: $10 per car to park; free shuttle to downtown Jefferson City.

 Mini Carnival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. North Jefferson City by the Pavilion. Cost: tickets.

 Eclipse Crop Circle Corn Maze, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Fischer Farms, North Jefferson City by Noren River Access. Cost: $5.

 Missouri State Parks Capital Eclipse, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Cost: Free.

 NASA "Journey to Tomorrow" Exhibit, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Capitol steps, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Cost: Free.

 NASA TV, time TBD, steps of Missouri Supreme Court building, 207 W. High St. Cost: Free.

 Eastside Business Association Viewing and Cookout, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Riverside Park, 1425 Riverside Drive. Cost: Free, with lunch available for purchase.

 Total Eclipse of the Katy Trail, Rocheport to Jefferson City. Event sold out.

 Boy Scout Total Eclipse of the Sun Golf Tournament, 11 a.m., Jefferson City Country Club, 516 S. Country Club Drive. Cost: $250 per player, $1,000 per team of four.

 Total Eclipse at the Park, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Rock Island City Park, Eldon.

 Renegade Eclipse Watch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Vivion Field, 1309 Missouri Blvd.

 Capital Eclipse Celebration for Children and Teens, noon-1:30 p.m., Missouri River Regional Library, 214 Adams St. Eclipse viewing from 1-1:30 p.m. in Missouri River Regional Library Park.


This article was updated Aug. 17, 2017, with additional information regarding parking in downtown Jefferson City and around the North Jefferson City Recreation Area.