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Chinese traffic jam hits 10-day mark

(Associated Press/Alexander F. Yuan)

And you thought the Beltway was bad. Gridlock spanning 60 miles has been stuck in place for 10 days in China, with traffic stemming from construction in Beijing moving only about a half-mile per day, and vendors setting up shop to profit off the captive audience.

Some drivers have been stuck in the jam for five days, China Central Television reported Tuesday, and an official said he wasn't sure when the situation along the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway would return to normal.

The traffic jam started Aug. 14 on a stretch of the highway that is frequently congested, especially after large coalfields were discovered in Inner Mongolia, Zhang Minghai, director of Zhangjiakou city's Traffic Management Bureau general office, said. Traffic volume has increased 40 percent every year.

Drivers stranded in the gridlock in the Inner Mongolia region and Hebei province, headed toward Beijing, passed the time sleeping, walking around, or playing cards and chess. Local villagers were doing brisk business selling instant noodles, boxed lunches and snacks, weaving between the parked trucks on bicycles.

Though there were no reports of road rage violence, drivers complained about price-gouging by villagers who were their only source of food and water. A bottle of water that normally costs 1 yuan (15 cents) was selling for 10 yuan ($1.50), while the price of a 3 yuan- (45 cent-) cup of instant noodles had more than tripled, media reports said.

"It's more expensive than eating in a restaurant," China National Radio cited a driver surnamed Lu as saying. The highway construction in Beijing that is restricting inbound traffic flow and causing the jam "will not be finished until Sept. 17," Zhang said.

Authorities were trying to speed up traffic by allowing more trucks to enter Beijing, especially at night, Zhang said. They also asked trucking companies to suspend operations and advised drivers to take alternate routes.

China's roadways are increasingly overburdened as the number of private vehicles booms along with commercial truck traffic hauling materials like coal and food to cities.

--Associated Press

Consult Dr. Gridlock: What--and where--is the worst traffic you've ever encountered? What was the cause, how long were you in it, and how did you deal? Chime in on the comments section below.

By Luke Rosiak  | August 24, 2010; 9:12 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Nobody in DC cares about this.

Also, maybe a freight train or two would help.

Posted by: yell53 | August 24, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it doesn't apply to us but this is the kind of thing people tune in to this blog to read about. So, bite it.

Posted by: shorele17 | August 24, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it doesn't apply to us but this is the kind of thing people tune in to this blog to read about. So, bite it.

Posted by: shorele17 | August 24, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I guess the worst traffic jam ever for me is 60 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic between Richmond and Dumfries.

Posted by: vance1167 | August 24, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

China is competitive; I guess they want to do everything we do bigger including pollution and traffic jams ;)

Posted by: flonzy1 | August 24, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

It may not affect us in DC, but I find stories like this amusing, and I also have to scratch my head: Surely SOMEONE in that backup has some tools somewhere in his truck and could cut through the median barrier (which appears in that picture to be metal) so that people could make illegal U-turns.

As to that last question about the worst traffic jam, I'll limit it to ones in which I've been driving. (The traffic in St. Petersburg, Russia, was absolutely horrible, but I wasn't driving and I also understand that hideous traffic jams are the norm there.) I think the worst one I recall was back in 2001 or 2002 during February. I had driven up to Carteret, New Jersey, for some depositions (Exit 12 on the Turnpike) and a snowstorm hit on the way home. The southern end of the Turnpike was closed, so I took I-95 through Philadelphia. Big Mistake. I should have gone further west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but I was concerned about snow in the mountains. Anyway, the elevated part of the highway froze over. I remember seeing a car spin out in traffic and somehow the driver avoided hitting anything. At one point it took four hours to go five miles in the area just south of the sports complex, and it was cold enough that day that I wound up having to leave the car on the whole time just to get sufficient heat. Had I not been so stubborn, I would have stopped at a hotel and tried again the next day, but by the time I reached I-495 in Delaware the road opened up and I could sustain about 35 mph for the rest of the trip back to Fairfax (though I periodically had to stop under overpasses to clean ice off the windshield wipers). I noted that Delaware and Maryland didn't do jack to plow I-95 EXCEPT around the toll plazas, which were well-cleared and functioning as normal. The traffic had been so bad that when I got to the Delaware Service Plaza, a TV crew was there to interview people about the traffic, but I had to decline because I was sprinting to the men's room.

I think eventually the drive wound up taking me around eight hours that day. This was the same day as a 128-vehicle pileup on I-95 in Stafford County, Virginia, but that backup did not affect me.

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 24, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I am wondering how ladies can find restroom there?

Posted by: poorbaby | August 24, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Cut through the median barrier so people could make illegal U-turns? In China? Are you crazy? The country is run by communists. Do something illegal and they'll execute you.

Posted by: glazer68 | August 24, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"I am wondering how ladies can find restroom there?"

Same way men do: Walk to the side of the road and do what must be done.

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 24, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Yell53: why would you think you can comment for everyone in DC?! That's really ridiculous!

My longest wait ever was fortunately only two hours. I almost went beserk. I wonder if this one in China is the longest traffic jam ever?!

Posted by: shejoy | August 24, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Cut through the median barrier so people could make illegal U-turns? In China? Are you crazy? The country is run by communists. Do something illegal and they'll execute you."

Clearly you have never been to China. You can do what you want there, so long as you do not have a large group of followers, and gain the attention of the Party.

Posted by: antispy | August 24, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The most pointless traffic jam I've been stuck in was in Maine. The traffic jam was over 8 miles in both directions and added about 2 hrs to our trip. We were driving north on Rte 1 (the only road available) and the police in Wiscasset (sp?) were stopping traffic to let people cross the street. They only let 1 or 2 cars through at a time. They didn't let the pedestrians wait at all before stopping traffic. I'm sure that was on purpose in order to make a point, but for vacationers such as us, it was making Cape Cod traffic look like a cake walk. In fact, it stopped me from making a trip north of Wiscasset about 6 months later.

Posted by: JLRGG | August 24, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Ten days in a traffic jam! That really puts things in a different perspective. The worst jams I have experienced were in central New Jersey. My daily commute included the intersection of Routes 1 and 18 in New Brunswick. These two major commuter routes were also surface streets in a shopping area (think Rockville Pike). It could take over an hour to go less than 5 miles. Also, I do not recommend being on the New Jersey Turnpike on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Four-plus hours to go from New Brunswick to Philadelphia, but at least you could pull over at a rest stop and use the facilities.

Posted by: n_mcguire | August 24, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

so what is the carbon footprint? Maybe we should send Joe Biden to investigate!

Posted by: jiji1 | August 24, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

these are the people we need to take lessons from?

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | August 24, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Great. Socialists can now hop on this news to excuse traffic failures / status quo around DC.

Posted by: jhope432 | August 24, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Wiscassett is notorious for horrible traffic. Most locals know to approach destinations north of there from the north to avoid passing through.

Pedestrians do have the right of way, in a crosswalk, though. When traffic is heavy, car drivers sometimes get "desparate" and choose not to yield, despite that the legal obligation to yield to pedestrians is completely unrelated to how much traffic is there. Thus, the police enforce the rule and force the cars to yield. Sounds like a perfect location for a pedestian signal though.

Posted by: thetan | August 24, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I was once stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel for over six hours (in the middle of the night), but this takes the take!

Posted by: hoos3014 | August 24, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Worst traffic jam...sigh, so many to choose from...but getting from Fairfax (govt center) to Tyson's corner (Route 7 exit) in 2.5 hours was pretty bad. That was when 495 was shut down because of the sniper - you know, to look for white vans.

Posted by: fat_kitty | August 24, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The worst traffic jam I ever experienced was at a border crossing into East Germany in 1987. If I recall correctly, we were stuck there for six hours, pushing the car along a few meters at a time. We had expected a long delay, so it was actually kind of fun until the downpour started.

Posted by: skueppers | August 24, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

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