Following up on our recent post on which cities suffer from the most grueling traffic congestion on the planet – and looking ahead to the inevitable Memorial Day weekend tie-ups here at home – we took to the Internet to identify what are arguably the absolute worst traffic tie-ups of all time. No mere rush-hour delays, these are epic standstills for which commuting becomes camping and roadways turn into parking lots. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order.
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. Not caused by closure or natural disaster, this all-time tie-up cause 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 is historic for more than just traffic. With more than 500,000 attendees 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 motorists eventually abandoning their cars and hoofing it to enjoy “three days of peace and music” (and rain and mud and more than 10 times the anticipated crowd). Performers had to be flown to and from the site in helicopters to avoid the crippling congestion.
Chicago, Illinois: February 2011. A near-record 20.2 inches of snow fell on the Windy City on February 1, 2011 in a late-winter blizzard that hit the hardest during the evening rush hour. The most unfortunate commuters were those on the otherwise idyllic Lake Shore Drive headed northbound from downtown Chicago. A series of weather-related accidents slowed, and then halted traffic and buried motorists for more than 12 hours in drifting snow that reached almost as high as the cars’ windshields.
RELATED: The Best Cars for Commuters
East/West Germany: April 1990. With the Berlin Wall between the East and West having finally fallen, the Easter holiday saw a massive influx of Germans eager to reconnect with friends and family members. The ensuing record-holding 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. Apparently freedom from oppression doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from traffic.
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. 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 crippling, the mass evacuation is said to have probably saved many lives.
Lyon-Paris, France: February 1980. Noted as the longest traffic jam in the annals of congestion, a combination of hoards of winter vacationers returning to Paris and inclement weather caused a massive tie-up that stretched 109 miles long. Perhaps it would have been quicker had they simply 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 and stopped traffic in its tracks for up to three days. The government reportedly set up tents along the route to offer provisions and psychological counseling (what no vodka?) to mired motorists.
New York City, New York: 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. What’s more, the nation’s air traffic was grounded, leaving thousands of travelers stranded across the U.S.
San Paulo, Brazil: June 2009. We heard from several readers regarding our “worst traffic cities” post that tie-ups in Brussels or San Francisco pale in comparison to those in San Paulo. It’s said to be crippling 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. Time magazine says the average motorist spends up to four hours sitting in traffic each day in this booming South American metropolis.
Tokyo, Japan: August 1990. More than 15,000 cars reportedly 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 subsequent to 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.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.