The commuting chaos in the Northeast and weeklong Chinese gridlock are just two recent examples of massive transportation failure. With your help, we've identified ten of history's worst traffic jams.
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Photo Credit: pangalactic gargleblaster, flickr
10.) February 15, 2007: I-78 in Pennsylvania
Suggested By: Cheeseslap
Why It Was Horrible: The always frustrating combination of snow, ice, and tractor-trailer accidents really hit the jackpot in Pennsylvania in the winter of 2007. Due to the State Police, Governor and National Guard's confusion, it was hours before the arterial roads onto I-78 were closed, and some folks had to spend 24 hours trapped in their vehicles. By then, the backup was 50 miles long.
Photo credit: WebMD
9.) 2001: I-95/495/395 interchange in Springfield, VA
Suggested By: Slave2anMG
Why It Was Horrible: In 2001, a truck driver flipped his truck over on the interchange between I-95 and the DC Beltway. This wouldn't have been that bad on its own, but the truck was filled with explosive black powder. Local governments left it there through the morning rush hour, only to decide that at 1 in the afternoon, it was time to shut down the entire interchange to begin a cleanup effort. The resulting backup stretched for miles in every direction, and according to Slave2anMG's report, three women delivered babies while stuck.
Photo credit: Cascadia Prospectus
8.) November 15, 2007: I-35 in Lake Dallas, TX
Suggested By: 87integra
Why It Was Horrible: A tanker truck lost control on I-35 in Lake Dallas, TX, slamming into the median on the highway and exploding. The road was closed at 1pm, and was the only direct route from Lake Lewisville into Denton County. Drivers could either take two-lane roads through small towns for four hours, or drive around the lake, which meant doubling back, and more hours of delays. The fireball closed the road for days, with overnight repairs taking a week to complete.
Photo credit: Pandagon
7.) April 12, 1990: East-West German Border
Suggested By: Demon-Xanth
Why It Was Horrible: Widely considered (and noted by Guinness World Records) to be the traffic jam with the most cars involved, the jam in April of 1990 at the East-West German border saw 18 million cars stuck in place. They were trying to escape East Berlin, but ended up getting stuck in the biggest traffic jam (by number of cars) of all time.
Photo credit: Ask.com
6.) November 26, 2007: Seattle, Washington
Suggested By: outdoorplaces
Why It Was Horrible: While the Seattle Seahawks were playing football, the rest of the city was trying to get home from work. Mother Nature decided that that would be a great time to dump two inches of wet slush, and then drop temperatures so that everything froze into one big sheet of ice. Seattle only had 27 sand trucks & snowplows ready, so drivers came to a stop and abandoned their cars on I-5 and I-405. Eventually, the football game ended, and even more people were trying to get home, which just made the backup even worse. Some folks were stuck for as long as 12 hours.
Photo credit: The Seattle Traveler
5.) February 16, 1980: Lyon to Paris, France
Suggested By: Demon-Xanth
Why It Was Horrible: As tens of thousands of Frenchmen returned from their skiing holidays to Paris, a combination of horrible weather and way too many cars caused what has been acknowledged as the longest traffic jam ever. It stretched 109 miles. Interestingly, traffic in the Paris area is expected to double every 20 years, so it may only be a matter of time until this record is broken.
Photo credit: Focus Interruptus
4.) 1978: Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Suggested By: outdoorplaces
Why It Was Horrible: In the winter of 1978, a massive blizzard dumped feet of snow on Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Cars that were out on the roads ended up getting buried and frozen in place, and their drivers were told to evacuate. A number of people ended up freezing to death in their cars. Once the snow had been cleared, the cars were removed from the highway via forklift, however the forklift drivers didn't always lower the forks enough, so when some drivers went to reclaim their cars, they found them with two holes in the side.
Photo credit: Pictopia
3.) August 14-19, 1969: New York State Thruway around Bethel, NY
Suggested By: TouchMyMonkey
Why It Was Horrible: The history of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival is one that's fraught with mislaid plans and uncooperative people. When the New York State Police heard that the 50,000 Woodstock concertgoers would in fact be closer to 500,000, they refused to set up the traffic rerouting plans that had been worked out by the concert's organizers. This meant that The New York State Thruway and Highway 17B were backed up for at least 20 miles. Performers at the festival had to be flown in by helicopter from a nearby airport. The traffic jam lasted the three days of the event, with many people abandoning their cars and walking the distance to the concert site.
Photo credit: Sound Opinions Message Board
2.) September 11, 2001: Anywhere around New York City
Suggested By: Jstas has gas!
Why It Was Horrible: In the chaos that followed the September 11 attacks in the Northeast, car traffic was one of the many things affected. All of the bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were closed to everyone except emergency vehicles. Traffic was at a standstill all over the New York area. Additionally, the closure of much of Manhattan's public transportation caused even more trouble. The backups caused by the shutdown of New York airspace lasted for days, so it wasn't just those on the ground that had to deal with traffic jams.
Photo credit: The New York Times
1.) Evening Rush Hour, Daily: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Suggested By: Syrax
Why It Was Horrible: Every night during evening rush hour, Sao Paulo experiences some of the worst traffic snarls in the world. In good weather, on an average night, a motorist can expect to be stuck in 50 miles of back-ups. Double that if it's raining, and if there's an accident or a public transit strike, forget about it. And don't even think about hitting the roads if it's a holiday weekend. To date, their longest backup was 182 miles on May 9, 2008, because a logging truck tipped over. All in all, Sao Paulo sounds like a very bad place to be behind the wheel.
Photo credit: Mike, Picasa