Photo Of The Day: Vientiane Traffic Jam

Vientiane at rush hour
rkzerok, Flickr

Vientiane may be the quietest national capital in the world. The common aphorism that Lao PDR stands for “Lao, Please Don’t Rush” is particularly appropriate given the laid-back nature of Laos‘ capital. The Mekong river maunders next to the city and seems to vacuum out the impetus and pressure of daily life here.

But quiet though it may be, it is suffering from a growing traffic problem as more people purchase cars. Of course, compared to any other major Asian capital, its traffic jams are laughable. The above photo from Flickr user rkzerok shows central Vientiane around rush hour.

However, Vientiane was never meant to handle much traffic at all. Its tiny roads can seem pretty packed despite only boasting as many cars as a Wal-Mart parking lot. And in response, the Lao government has even implemented laws to ease the congestion.

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10 Congested highways to make you lose your mind tonight

Traffic: 10 most congested roads for Thanksgiving driving travelWe know that today and tomorrow, traffic is going to be brutal. With 42 million people traveling for the holiday – and 94 percent of them going by car – it’s inevitable that someone’s going to wind up frustrated. Throw in some nasty weather and highway construction, not to mention a handful of screaming kids, and you have a formula for misery.

Can it get any worse? The Weather Channel thinks so. Not every holiday driving experience is equally miserable: in fact, there are 10 spots where you’re extra likely to lose your mind. So, let’s take a peek at the 10 most congested roads in the country, according to The Weather Channel:


1. New York City to Washington, DC: I-95
This is going to suck. You have a lot of people in New York City and a lot in Washington, DC. There are also a lot in between … and so many of them will be getting behind the wheel. To make matters worse, The Weather Channel notes, “Bad weather is not uncommon along this corridor during Thanksgiving week.” Not enough abuse for you? The company adds, “Some experts estimate that this 225-mile trek is the slowest stretch of highway nationwide during the holiday season.”

2. Boston: Westbound Massachusetts Turnpike from Downtown Boston to I-84
At first glance, I wondered why the New York-to-DC stretch didn’t include Boston. I grew up there and spent many a Thanksgiving Eve sitting in the back seat not moving on the Mass Pike en route to I-84. It’s awful, and The Weather Channel’s comment, “it has been known to come to a virtual standstill,” is not an exaggeration.

3. Chicago: Borman Expressway I-80/I-94, the Tri-State Tollway
The Weather Channel calls this “the trifecta of traffic tie-ups,” because three roads with heavy traffic intersect. The big rigs that use these highways make it even worse. Good luck if this is your route for Thanksgiving.

4. New York City: Throgs Neck Bridge, Whitestone Bridge
Yeah, the Big Apple makes a second appearance on this list. There’s a reason why I’m staying put on the Upper West Side this year. If you’re looking to get from the city out to Long Island or up to Connecticut, don’t be fooled by this “key choke point,” as The Weather Channel describes it: built to “help relieve traffic on the adjacent Whitestone Bridge,” the Throgs Neck has now become a nightmare in its own right.

5. San Francisco: Eastbound I-80 to Sacramento and Tahoe
Are you among the masses dashing out of San Fancisco for Thanksgiving? If you’re looking to get an early feel for winter … well, you’ll quickly realize you weren’t the only person with this idea.

6. Atlanta: I-285 between I-75 and I-85 … in Both Directions
Six major interstates cut through Atlanta, and I-285 is the busiest of them, thanks to two million daily drivers. Throw in the extra traffic for the holidays, and you can expect to see this southern city from under an overpass or across the median. Build a few extra playlists if you’re driving this stretch of road.

7. Washington, DC: I-495 from Merrifield, VA to Landover, MD
Like New York, DC makes The Weather Channel’s list of congested roads twice. The Beltway, which is only 30 miles long, can take two hours on a normal day. Now, add angry, confused or simply stupid holiday travelers … and wait for hilarity to ensue.

8. Dallas: I-35
Are you among the 3.5 million people who will make I-35 a pain this holiday season? Drive with the windows down, maybe you’ll get the chance to make a new friend while you wait … and wait … and wait.

9. Detroit: Northbound Where US-23 and I-75 Merge
Near Flint, you’ll find plenty of people at this spot who are looking to go north for the winter. Blame the “cabin owners, resort seekers and deer hunters.”

10. Miami: The Palmetto Expressway (Near Miami Airport)
The Weather Channel calls this “one of the most heavily traveled roads in the Miami area,” and you can expect it to get backed up from Okeechobee Road to south of the Dolphin Expressway. If you’re either flying in or picking up someone who is, leave a bottle of Advil on the dashboard: you’ll need it.

[photo by FontFont via Flickr]

The Chinese bus that straddles traffic

China is suffering some growing pains. Its cities are booming and road builders are having trouble keeping up. After last month’s nine-day traffic jam that stretched for 62 miles, it’s become obvious that something needs to be done.

One company has come up with an innovative result–a large bus with a tunnel underneath to allow two lanes of traffic to pass below it. The so-called Straddling Bus will cruise along at 60 km/hr (37 mph) and can carry up to 1,400 passengers. It’s 6 meters (6.6 yards) wide and up to 4.5 meters (4.9 yards) high. Sensors will warn when cars are getting too close to the sides or if a truck is too tall to make it into the tunnel.

The Straddling Bus has already been approved for use in Beijing, with 186 km (115 miles) of lines earmarked for the new system. Construction will being at the end of the year.

The video shows how it works. Hopefully the safety measures will be built with someone who has a greater grasp of engineering than the translator has of the English language.

Nine-day, 62-mile traffic jam in China

Before you start the commute home for the day, consider how bad the traffic could be. Sure, you could get stuck behind a bus or on the train for an hour or so, but how about 9 DAYS?! Thousands of motorists have been stranded on the Beijing-Tibet expressway since August 13th as a road work project has stopped up an already-busy road, and they could be stuck for another few weeks until the project concludes. Heavy traffic is nothing new to the highway, as thousands of trucks pass through daily on one of the few routes into the capital, carrying cargo throughout the country.

Some enterprising (and price-gouging) locals have set up shop along the highway, selling food and drinks at steep prices, though police are patrolling the area around the clock and will remain until the congestion is alleviated. Bored drivers have suggested that “concerts should be held at each congested area every weekend, to alleviate drivers’ homesickness” and why stop there? How about a pop-up hotel or a food truck (though a food bicycle might be better to cut through the stalled vehicles) to ameliorate tension and hunger? There won’t be any traffic tweet-ups, as the government has blocked Twitter along with a number of other websites.

How would you pass the time in the world’s worst traffic jam?

[Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons]

San Francisco’s Bay Bridge closed indefinitely

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be closed indefinitely while crews repair an upper-deck cable that snapped during rush-hour on Tuesday evening. According to the AP, the broken cable and a chunk of bridge metal fell onto the westbound lanes, damaging at least one vehicle.

The cable that snapped was put in last month to repair a crack that was discovered over Labor Day weekend. While the issue is repaired, other forms of transportation will double up their efforts to keep people moving on trains and ferries.

The snapped wire could be a sign of more repair work to come, though. As quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News, a civil engineering professor at UCLA Berkeley called the initial crack a “warning sign” of more problems. He said the repair was really just a Band-Aid and “demonstrates the need for a longer-term solution.” The bridge is 73 years old and carries around 260,000 people each day.