If you are dreading Labor Day traffic jams, take heart that you are not stuck on the highway in China where a monster jam is moving into its 11th day.
As many as 10,000 vehicles, mostly trucks, are crammed fender to fender for 74.5 miles (120 km) along the north-south Beijing-Tibet expressway.
The highway mess can be attributed, at least in part, to roadwork intended to alleviate the congestion. But other factors are also slowing traffic, including drivers falling asleep in the days-long gridlock and blocking other vehicles when there is some movement, Chinese news reports state.
The bulk of congestion is located between Inner Mongolia and Hebei province, which is located northwest of Beijing, according to the Global Times. Vehicles consist premarily of trucks carrying coal and food into Beijing.
The gridlock began in August when various sections along the expressway were jamming up due to road construction. Some early blockages were slowly resolved, but on Aug. 27 traffic hit another bottleneck at the Ji Meng toll stop in Inner Mongolia. The congestion soon extended 18.6 miles (30 km) with thousands of cars idling while trying to get through the tolls.
According to the Global Times, the road construction that is believed to be the source of congestion was necessary to repair the damage caused by cargo trucks using the expressway. Roadwork will not be finished until mid-September.
In addition to construction, Beijing's Municipal Committee suggested other factors contributing to the traffic congestion, such as the overloading of goods on transport vehicles, vehicle breakdowns and the sheer volume of cars on the highway. Lumbering and often overloaded trucks take a lot more time to start and stop, thereby slowing down the traffic speed behind them. And some drivers are caught dozing during the long waits to move forward.
According to CCTV, Beijing's traffic levels have increased by 130 percent from 2009 to 2010. The highway's capacity is roughly 10,000 cars per day, the Municipal Committee said. In 2009, highway traffic was estimated to be roughly 6,000 cars per day; this figure has now risen to 14,000.
Seven million cars are projected to be on Beijing's roads by 2015, the British Telegraph newspaper reported. Traffic restrictions on license plate numbers already prohibit Beijing drivers from driving one day per week.