News / Asia

Thousands of Drivers Jammed in Traffic Near Beijing

Thousands of Drivers Jammed in Traffic Near Beijing
Thousands of Drivers Jammed in Traffic Near Beijing

A nine-day traffic jam outside Beijing has drivers fuming, street vendors turning a quick profit and Chinese traffic authorities struggling for answers.  Traffic has been slowed to a crawl since August 14 on a 100-kilometer stretch of National Expressway 110 that runs between Beijing and Hebei province.  Officials say the jam is caused by an increase in trucks carrying goods to Beijing and by highway maintenance work along the route.

Highways have become numerous and complicated in and around Beijing in recent years as the Chinese public has made a large shift to motorized travel over the past 30 years.  The road system there is now similar to what motorists find in the Washington DC area, which according to Forbes magazine ranks as the second most congested area in the United States behind Los Angeles.

Joan Morris is with the Northern Virginia District of the Virginia Highway Department, or VDOT.  "We have had 20 mile (32 kilometer) backups,” she said.  “We have extraordinarily miserable days.  It has happened.  But our job is to make sure that does not happen."

While highway maintenance is being blamed for the massive jam in China, Morris says those types of operations are very choreographed in and around Washington.  "You have to have one traffic guy who is looking at how those lane closures could impact one another.  You have got to be careful you are not shutting this down and also shutting that down.  So it is a big coordination effort,” Morris said.

“And there are lots of folks dedicated just to reviewing lane closures, making sure everything makes sense, making sure the right signs are out there and that we are communicating with the public well in advance,” she said.

Delays across the United States add up.  In the 439 U.S. metro areas, the average commuter spends 36 hours a year in traffic, which amounts to $87 billion in wasted fuel and productivity according to a 2009 survey by the Texas Transportation Institute.

Nancy Singer of the Federal Highway Administration says states can take several approaches to minimizing the impact of road construction and maintenance.  "Part of the challenge is in the planning, specifically how states plan construction.  And there are various schools of thought on this and various approaches being used.”

Singer said “It is not necessarily just putting up signs and having workers work on the roads.  But there are also strategies that can be used in order to reduce the impact to the public."

The highway tie-up outside of Beijing reflects the rapidly increasing number of cars on the road in China, which has become the world's largest market for automobiles.  Near Washington, Joan Morris says Virginia's highway system has been viewed as a model for other road projects around the world.

"We look at other places in the world,” she said.  “But often they are coming over here to see what we have done.  We have had many many groups from China and from other countries come to Washington DC and look at what Virginia is doing and what Maryland is doing because they look to us often for how to do it right."

Nancy Singer says technology is also changing the way highways and roads are being built to further minimize the impact on drivers.  "Technologies make it possible to build roads faster.  There is a whole area called pre-cast concrete and pre-cast roads and bridges where you can build them off site.  And you can actually place them onto the road, perhaps at night time, which is really like building blocks.  So that causes very minimal disruption to the public."

Not everyone is unhappy about the massive traffic jam in China.  The official Xinhua news agency says while drivers are suffering, local residents are seizing the opportunity to sell food and bottled water to the thousands of stranded motorists at inflated prices.

Authorities expect the congestion to last until workers complete the road maintenance project around mid-September.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs