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Old July 31st, 2010, 07:20 PM   #1
Suburbanist
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Worst highway jam you've ever been through - for reasons other than weather and accidents.

I'm opening this thread so we can share our nightmare stories about highway traffic jams we've experienced as drivers or passengers.

I was thinking about leaving out events like weather or accidents that imply in road closures, because they are not exactly related to having too few lanes for traffic demand.

======================================

Worst congestion I've ever got due to traffic was on a drive from Genève (Switzerland) to Bologna (Italy), on Sunday, 4/11/2007. I knew traffic would be hard, but after crossing with few if any queues the Mont Blanc tunnel (which acts effectively as a ramp meter for the A5 in Italy, I was excited about reaching home soon.

I even dared to stop in a village to watch the sunset for 30-40 minutes. After that, I took the A5 direction Southeast again, and near St. Vicent things got rapidly worse, then we were stuck bump-to-bump traffic. I know there were no highway or any road, indeed, generating traffic in that direction down the road, so the jam was either due to a lane closure (accident) or things were so bad further down that we were caught in a backup jam

The latter proved true... Upon reaching the A4 interchange, I made a huge mistake and decided to head through Milano (A4-A1) instead of Alexandria (A26 - A21), because I could see free-flowing traffic on the A4 and a lot of red backlights on the A26. After 10-12km of free traffic, it become bump-to-bump again... some stretches would allow 40-50km/h for less than one km, then it was 10-20, then a sequence of complete stops (frustrating).

Near the toll plaza, the standstill was complete. Later, I read that they had reduced the available booths to prevent further congestion on Milano's ringroads so traffic would disperse quickly once clearing these "gates". Indeed, I could complete the A1 sector at 125-130 km/h, and arrived at 2am for what was supposed to be "in time to get to the pub with friends"

Until them, I was wary of taking local parallel roads (most Italian highways have close aligned local roads) detour because they can get congested too. But since them I started developing whole alternative routes that bypasses freeway axes completely. They are a nice try if traffic is really bad (like below 30 km/h + stops).

I also figured out that the increased use of GPS is reducing the ability of drivers, particular very new drives, to navigate the road network in cases like this. They will always follow the GPS when outside their surroundings.

From Ivrea to the Milano toll it took us 6 hours for a stretch normally driven in 1h30 (~130 km distance).
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Old July 31st, 2010, 07:27 PM   #2
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For me was when I was a passenger driving from Portugal to Ireland, it took about 3 hours to cross the French-Spanish border in both directions due to the huge amount of Portuguese and Moroccan immigrants in France and Luxembourg. At one service station, my family was the only one not talking in Portuguese and the only one with a Portuguese registered car.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 07:49 PM   #3
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somehow i have allway managed to avoind huge jams. i really don't know which one could be the worse, if it could be bad at all. maybe once in France around Béziers at A9, truck accident, we've been crawling about 45 minutes 10-20 km/h, so maybe some 20 km.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 07:54 PM   #4
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I usually try to avoid rush hours and peak holiday travel days if possible.

Once though, I was driving on German A46 near Düsseldorf on a Sunday, and because of (finished) road works, the Autobahn was narrowed from 3 to 1 lanes. To make things worse, there was an on-ramp of Kreuz Düsseldorf-Süd, and people tried to use the C/D lane as well, so it effectively went from 5 to 1 lane.

That one took me 1 hour for 1 kilometer.

I also once left The Hague around 3 pm. I wasn't home until 7 pm, 4 hours for around 150 kilometers. That was just regular rush-hour traffic. The first 80 kilometers took 3 hours from The Hague via Amsterdam to Amersfoort. (A12 was closed at the time).
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Old July 31st, 2010, 08:16 PM   #5
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At the risk of angering Suburbanist, it boggles the mind that there could be rush-hour congestion across an entire country (even one the size of the Netherlands), particularly one with excellent public transportation. Yes, maybe this just proves that people prefer to drive, and it'd be hypocritical of me to fault them for that*, but still there's something wrong there....

*particularly since I live a ten-minute walk from work, so rush hours are hypothetical to me, and haven't been on a train since I acquired a car not quite two years ago after 13 years without one. Although I'll use the subway to, for example, baseball games. Seems silly to sit in traffic and pay to park.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 10:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
it boggles the mind that there could be rush-hour congestion across an entire country (even one the size of the Netherlands), particularly one with excellent public transportation. Yes, maybe this just proves that people prefer to drive, and it'd be hypocritical of me to fault them for that*, but still there's something wrong there....
.
It's not only a taste for traffic jams, but if you account for the whole commute, door-to-door, even with traffic jams you will usually arrive earlier by car here in Netherlands. It is not my case because I live in front (exactly) of Tilburg University, the parking lot for the university is further than my apartment from my room there.

Trains here in Netherlands will be usually faster in peak times if your origin and destination are close to stations. But if you have to walk/bike/take a tram/metro/bus in each nod more than 20 minutes each, any advantage of the train evaporated. Though the whole country is quite dense, the urban environment of Nederlandse cities doesn't have very high density business districts. Indeed, only Rotterdam has a quite widespread high-rise business district. So it is not uncommon for people to simple not live or work near a train station, though there are 318 of them, to my knowledge (ProRail + Randstad Rail).

It is also rather common for couples to work in different cities and live in a third.

As for holiday travel, it is impossible to compete with the car for family trips. First, trains are expensive to travel in 3, 4 people. Second, families (and group of friends, couples for that matter) usually take a decent amount of luggage. Third, holiday destinations are scattered and not easily accessible by public transportation - even in The Netherlands.

For instance, if I decide to go to the Tesrchelling Island, it will take me from where I live at 4h15 (just checked NS website) and 4 changes in 's-Hertogenbosch, Utrecht, Zwolle and Leeuwarden. Now imagine a family with children, seaboards, maybe camping gear... it's a no-brain: stuff everything in the car
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Old July 31st, 2010, 10:14 PM   #7
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On my 55 km trip to work (without congestion 40 min) my normal morning rush-hour delay is about 15 minutes, but I've experienced once a traveltime of 2,5 hours because of severe traffic accidents.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 06:24 AM   #8
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I never drove through the Swiss Gotthard tunnel on summer weekends, so I was once really unpleasantly surprised with a 20-km jam on a Thursday. It took me 2 hours.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 08:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
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I never drove through the Swiss Gotthard tunnel on summer weekends, so I was once really unpleasantly surprised with a 20-km jam on a Thursday. It took me 2 hours.
During summer peak travels, I ALWAYS took the detours through the mountain passes near St. Gotthard and near the Monte Bianco (though it requires more advanced planning to detour from the latter).
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Old August 1st, 2010, 10:36 AM   #10
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Last year the maximum waiting time for the Gotthard was 6 hours southbound. I believe it's been somewhat less this year.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 11:42 AM   #11
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Last year on C-14 road we went into slow traffic all the way from Reus to Montblanc (Junction with N-240). We took about a hour to go 20 km, despite that between Reus and Alcover it's an expressway.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 08:40 AM   #12
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Construction on the Cedar Street Bridge where Interstates 64, 70, and 55 cross the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Rush hour on a Friday night. Awful.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 10:43 AM   #13
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Some years ago, Saturday morning (bad planning, I know, but I did not expect that situation) several hours of jam at Tarvisio toll plaza from Italy to Austria. Sometimes we stood 10-20 minutes without moving at all. A Polish family took a walk woth the dog, Czech girls took the deckcheair and enjoyed the sun :-)
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 10:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Third, holiday destinations are scattered and not easily accessible by public transportation - even in The Netherlands.
In Hungary the most popular holiday destination, lake Balaton is easily accessible from Budapest by train. Heavy traffic (trains in each hour, and even twice an hour in the morning direction Balaton, and in the evening direction Budapest) so that children and young people use the train. Families and people travelling to the Adriatic coast of Croatia use the car (motorway M7) so that the motorway is always heavily congested Friday afternoon and Saturday morning direction Balaton/Croatia, and Sunday evening direction Budapest. This jam blocks a lot of urban roads in Budapest as well, Friday afternoon it is almost impossible to leave the city even if you don't go to holidays but simply have a bad luck and your house is near to M7.
Once I was sitting in my car and one single corner distance (about 200 meters) took 25 minutes inside Budapest but directed to M7. Friday afternoon/evening is terrible from May to September.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 01:54 PM   #15
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The worst one can I remember was M1 between London and Sheffield, whole route was like a massive traffic jam... It took around 7 or 8 hours...
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 03:04 PM   #16
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Heading home after the fireworks on the 4th of July at Fort Vancouver Washington. It took an hour and a half just to go the few miles from the fort to to the I-205 bridge to Portland, then about another hour as we crawled into Portland just across the river until it meets up with I-84 where half the traffic turned off backing up that freeway.. It took over 3 hours what is normally a 25 minute drive.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 05:31 AM   #17
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Just rush hour in the Fraser Valley in BC on the Trans Canada Hwy. Don't miss it either. Plugged up worse than my sinuses from the Cassiar Tunnel, all the way to Abbotsford.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:41 AM   #18
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Stuck in traffic with every one and their families going North in Israel for the holidays. Took me once 7 hours to get to a destination that usually would take 2.5 hours. I hope they complete the new part of Freeway 6 soon that would save time but cost $$ (electronic toll freeway)

In the USA well, mostly rush hours but sometimes road work during the day is done so badly that, well, you regret leaving home
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Old August 4th, 2010, 10:59 AM   #19
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Quote:
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I hope they complete the new part of Freeway 6 soon that would save time but cost $$ (electronic toll freeway)
Actually, it costs ₪

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Old August 4th, 2010, 11:01 AM   #20
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When I visited Los Angeles in 2007 and drove on the 405 in afternoon rush hour.
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