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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2010

Traffic jam hits Day 10 in Chinese construction

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING - A massive traffic jam in China that stretches for dozens of miles and hit its 10-day mark Tuesday stems from road construction in Beijing that won't be finished until next month, an official said.

The backup was 60 miles long at one point.

Reaching almost to the outskirts of Beijing, traffic still creeps along in fits and starts and the crisis could last for three more weeks, authorities say.

In the worst-hit stretches, drivers pass the time sitting in the shade of their immobilized trucks, playing cards, sleeping on the asphalt, or bargaining with price-gouging food vendors. Many of the trucks that carry fruit and vegetables are unrefrigerated and the cargoes are assumed to be rotting.

On Sunday, the eighth day of the near-standstill, trucks moved less than a mile on the worst section, said Zhang Minghai, a traffic director in Zhangjiakou, a city about 90 miles northwest of Beijing.

China Central Television reported Tuesday that some vehicles had been stuck for five days.

No portable toilets were set up along the highway, leaving only two apparent options - hike to a service area or into the fields.

But the main complaint heard from drivers was about villagers on bicycles making a killing selling boxed lunches, bottled water to drink, and heated water for noodles. A bottle of water was selling for $1.50, 10 times the normal price, Chinese media reports said.

The traffic jam built up on the Beijing-Tibet highway, on a section that links the capital to the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

The main reason traffic has increased on this partially four-lane highway is the opening of coal mines in the northwest, vital for the booming economy.

The immediate cause of the traffic jam that began Aug. 14 is construction on one of three southbound highways feeding into Beijing.

Authorities are trying to ease the mess by letting more trucks into the capital, especially at night, said Mr. Zhang, the traffic director.



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