Next time you’re sitting in traffic be thankful you weren’t caught in any of these all-time tie-ups.
Those living in or near major U.S. cities clearly spend too much time sitting in traffic. According to navigation service provider INRIX in Kirkland, Wash., commuters in the 10 most congested parts of the country spend an average 42 hours a year stuck in gridlock.
Those hitting the highways for summer road trips will likely encounter their share of congestion, but it’s sure to pale in comparison to what were some of the nastiest traffic jams in vehicular history. No mere rush hour delays, these were epic standstills for which commuting became camping and roadways turned into parking lots. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order.
• Beijing, China: August 2010. An epic 62-mile tie-up that lasted for 12 days occurred on the Beijing-Tibet expressways in August of 2010, for which the trip took as long as three days. Ironically one of the causes for the clog was a convoy of trucks carrying construction supplies into Beijing for roadwork to help ease congestion.
• Bethel, N.Y.: August 1969. Over 500,000 revelers descended on Max Yasgur’s famous farm for the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, clogging the New York Thruway for more than 20 miles over three days, with performers having to be flown to and from the site in helicopters.
• Chicago, Ill.: February 2011. A near-record 20.2 inches of snow fell on the Windy City on February 1, 2011, hitting the hardest during the evening rush hour. The most unfortunate commuters were those stranded on the otherwise idyllic Lake Shore Drive for over 12 hours in drifts that reached nearly as high as the cars’ windshields.
• East/West Germany: April 1990. With the Berlin Wall having just fallen, the Easter holiday saw a massive influx of Germans eager to reconnect with friends and family. The ensuing record-holding backup on April 12, 1990 was estimated at a whopping 18 million cars.
• 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 packing evacuation routes, creating a massive 100-mile queue on Interstate 45 that reportedly lasted for as much as 48 hours, leaving motorists stranded for as long as 24 hours.
• Lyon-Paris, France: February 1980. Cited as the longest traffic jam ever, winter vacationers returning to Paris were met by inclement weather that caused a massive 109-mile tie-up. Perhaps it would have been quicker had they skied back into the city.
• Moscow, Russia: November 2012. A snowstorm buried Highway M-10 that links St, Petersburg to Moscow on November 30, 2012 that stopped traffic in its tracks for up to three days. The government reportedly set up tents along the route to offer psychological counseling (what no vodka?) for mired motorists.
• New York City, N.Y.: September 2001. In the days following the horrific attacks on the World Trade 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.
• San Paulo, Brazil: June 2009. Traffic is crippling in this booming South American metropolis 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 reportedly crawled along for over 84 miles on a highway in western Japan on August 12, 1990, in an artery clogging combination of holiday revelers heading home and residents evacuating the city subsequent to a typhoon warning. The holiday in question was "O-bon," the so-called Festival of the Dead. Festival of the dead end is more like it.
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