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I recall back in 2007 an ice storm swept through the Northeast and paralyzed much of the region on Valentine’s Day.  It was an ugly mess all over, but this particular event stands out in the minds of many Pennsylvanians because of what happened on Interstate 78.

I-78 was all but shut down with a 50 mile backlog of traffic.  This would be nasty enough in that weather, but the cars and trucks on that highway were stuck there for over 24 hours.  No food, no water, freezing temperatures, and declining fuel.  It was a nightmare, and politicians were screaming for answers, and heads, for weeks afterward.

I thought I had seen the absolute worst in traffic that winter.  Leave it to the Chinese to prove me wrong.

On August 13 construction work began on the Beijing-Tibet Highway outside of Beijing.  The automobile ownership boom in China has, apparently, vastly overwhelmed its infrastructure and the project was going to add more lanes to allow for better traffic flow.  Irony saw this and decided to rear its head.  The construction project combined with the already overwhelming amount of traffic to create a 62 mile backlog that is quickly nearing the border with Inner Mongolia.

Average speed in the gridlocked area?  One-third of a mile per day.

The Chinese government is now speculating that the gridlock will likely continue until September 17 when the project is scheduled to be completed and the lanes reopened.  For those following along, that’s a traffic jam that lasts just over a month.  And, of course, that is assuming the project is completed on time.  Maybe it’s different in China because of the whole Communism thing, but I know that if PennDOT completes a project on time we here in Pennsylvania wonder what is wrong with it.

The bright side of this is that the residents of local villages bordering the highway are profiting from the situation by selling (read “gouging” by the motorists on the highway) the stranded drivers a variety of local wares including instant noodles.

And we though capitalism could never take root in China!


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