Bloomington, IU, and State Police share plans ahead of total solar eclipse



WHAT TO KNOW

  • Anticipate heavy traffic backups
  • Arrive early, stay late
  • City buildings will be closed April 8; employees to work remotely
  • Bloomington Fire, Police to operate at full capacity

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (IUSTV News) — April’s total solar eclipse is nearly just a month away from passing right over Indiana University and the City of Bloomington, and that has city, campus, and police leaders getting their plans for safety and logistics finalized.

Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson, IU Associate Vice President and Superintendent for Public Safety Benjamin Hunter and Indiana State Police Sgt. Kevin Getz gave insight into the final stages of planning ahead of the once-in-a-lifetime event that is expected to bring people from across the country to the Hoosier state.

Indiana is within one day driving distance of 70% of the United States, and because of that, city and state leaders are anticipating roughly 300,000 eager eclipse viewers will travel to the Monroe County area. Across the entire state, that number could be well over 1 million people.

“This event brings tremendous economic opportunity for our community,” Thomson said. “There’s no better place to witness the eclipse than right here in Bloomington, where we’re going to prove that to everyone on April 8th.”

Due to the expected influx of people to the area, IU and the Monroe County Community School Corporation have cancelled all in person classes on April 8.

CITY SERVICES
Mayor Thomson announced that city workers will work remotely on the day of the eclipse to help limit the city’s impact on expected traffic congestion. City buildings, including city hall will be closed to the public, but the city will have employees available to answer questions over the phones.

Bloomington Sanitation will provide extra trash cans and recycle binds throughout the city to help handle the likely increase of waste produced before, during, and after the eclipse.

“I want to again thank this entire team for their work to get us ready for this huge event,” Thomson said. “Bloomington will shine through the darnkness as we show the world the welcoming and vibrant community that we are.”

POLICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY
One of the biggest areas of concern for local and state leaders is handling possible large-scale traffic backups. With hundreds of thousands expected to fill the states highways and interstates, police have one key tip: arrive early, stay late.

“Be patient,” Sgt. Getz stressed. “Everybody’s coming to see it, and when it’s over with, it’s much like the [Indianapolis] 500. They all want to be the first ones to leave.”

Indiana State Police will primarily be responsible for monitoring the state’s highways and interstates during the eclipse weekend. If you find yourself driving when the moment of totality, you must keep driving. You are not allowed to pull off onto the shoulder or stop while traffic is moving.

“Certainly, there might be some fender benders, there might be some crashes,” Sgt. Getz said. “We need to be able to get through to those and folks who just decided to pull over and park are going to create a hazard and a problem for us when we need to respond to something.”

Getz said that the Indiana State Police have been communicating with other state police agencies from other parts of the U.S. who experienced the last total solar eclipse to go across the country back in 2017. They confirmed the concerns over traffic backups, and that is what the focus will be for state police.

“Just understand that it’s going to take us a while to get everybody out of Bloomington and to their final destination,” Getz said. Many comparisons were drawn to the large crowds and traffic that is seen during the Indianapolis 500, but Getz said the preparations between that and the eclipse are far different. State leaders have not had to plan for a total solar eclipse in nearly 150 years.

IU and Bloomington Police will also play a role in helping moving people around the campus and city. IUPD expects to have about 65 officers on the Bloomington campus alone, and dozens of other officers on the other campuses across the state. Bloomington Police will begin working at full capacity starting April 6.

Bloomington Fire will also be running with their entire staff to be able to handle calls for service that may come during the eclipse.

POSSIBLE CELL PHONE OUTAGES
Another possible problem that may come from the influx of visitors to Bloomington is outages or slower than normal cell service. Benjamin Hunter with IU Police and Public Safety said they always anticipate the issue for large events and pointed out that even during IU home football games, cell service can be slow or not available, and that is for crowds of about 60-thousand people.

“It’s not new for us,” Hunter said. “When we bring a lot of visitors and they’re in one spot or they’re dispersed and still it’s a strain to the network. And so that’s why we’re asking folks to be patient, be prepared.”

Hunter stressed that 911 and emergency operations can still function as normal even with cell service issues.