You might think holiday traffic over here might be bad, but imagine sitting amidst a sea of cars spread across 50 lanes of congestion, brought to a standstill for hours on end. That’s what Reuters reported with China suffering one of the worst backups on record earlier this month on the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway.
As shocking as that spectacle is, that’s not even close to being worst highway congestion, neither in China nor in the world. We’re featuring a look back at what are arguably the 10 other worst tie-ups of all time from across the globe–all are epic standstills for which commuting became camping and roadways were reduced to parking lots.
Beijing, China: August 2010
Imagine being trapped in a 62-mile long traffic jam that lasted for an incredible 12 days. That just what happened to the poor folks attempting to traverse the Beijing-Tibet expressways in August of 2010, for which the trip took as long as three days. This all-time tie-up was simply the result of too many vehicles clogging the road, particularly a bevy of heavy trucks carrying construction supplies into Beijing, ironically for road work that was intended to help ease congestion.
Bethel, New York: August 1969
This three-day tie-up over August 15-18, 1969 was caused by more than 500,000 revelers descending on Max Yasgur’s famous farm for the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. The New York Thruway became a stranglehold for more than 20 miles, with many eventually abandoning their cars and hoofing it to enjoy “three days of peace and music.” Performers had to be flown to and from the site in helicopters.
Chicago, Illinois: February 2011
Over 20 inches of snow fell on the Windy City on February 1, 2011 in a mid-winter blizzard that hit during the evening rush hour. The most unfortunate commuters were those headed northbound on Lake Shore Drive, where traffic was slowed, then halted, stranding motorists for more than 12 hours in drifting snow that reached almost as high as the cars’ windshields.
East/West Germany: April 1990
With the Berlin Wall having recently fallen, the Easter holiday saw a massive influx of Germans eager to reconnect with friends and family members. The ensuing backup on April 12,1990 was estimated at a whopping 18 million cars on a roadway that otherwise averages a half million vehicles a day. That’s a lot of Ladas.
Interstate 45, Texas: September 2005
With Hurricane Rita approaching Houston, residents were told to evacuate on September 21, 2005, with as many as 2.5 million of them creating a massive 100-mile queue on Interstate 45. The congestion reportedly lasted for as much as 48 hours, leaving motorists stranded for as long as 24 hours along the 300-mile route from Galveston to Dallas. Though oppressive, the mass evacuation likely saved many lives.
Lyon-Paris, France: February 1980
Noted as being the longest traffic jam in the annals ofcongestion, winter vacationers returning to Paris faced inclement weather and caused a massive tie-up that stretched 109 miles long. Perhaps it would have been quicker had they skied back into the city.
Moscow, Russia: November 2012
Another weather-related tale of vehicular woe, a snowstorm buried Highway M-10 that links St, Petersburg to Moscow on November 30, 2012. It stopped traffic in its tracks for up to three days and the government reportedly set up tents along the route to offer psychological counseling (and we would assume, vodka) for mired motorists.
New York City, New York, September 2001
In the days following the horrific assault on the WorldTrade Center on September 11, New York City was virtually locked down, with bridges and tunnels closed to all but emergency vehicles, public transportation shut down and traffic at a halt across the city. Even air trafficwas grounded, leaving thousands of travelers stranded across the U.S.
San Paulo, Brazil: June 2009
We’ve heard from several readers regarding our worst traffic posts over the years that tie-ups in New York or San Francisco pale in comparison to those in San Paulo. It’s said to be awful on a good day, but the city set what must be some kind of record with more than 182 miles of traffic jams over 522 miles of road reported on June 10, 2009.
Tokyo, Japan: August 1990
More than 15,000 cars crawled along for over 84 miles on a highway between Hyogo and Shiga prefectures in western Japan on August 12, 1990, in an artery clogging combination of holiday revelers heading home and residents evacuating the city because of a typhoon warning. The holiday in question was “O-bon,” the so-called Festival of the Dead, when families gather to pay respects to their ancestors. Festival of the dead end is more like it.
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