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An article from the Daily Mail reports about a giant traffic jam near Beijing, China, in the aftermath of 2015's national holiday week.

Several times, the article insinuates at least a section of the motorway has as many as 50 lanes:

No end in sight: The incredible gridlock took place on one of the country's busiest and widest highways with as many as 50 lanes

and

The jam began at around 2pm just outside the capital city on the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, which has 50 around lanes.

Furthermore, the article then states:

The congestion was caused by a new checkpoint at the other side of the toll, which reduced the width of the road from 50 to less than 20 lanes.

This sounds like 50-ish lanes is the regular width of a part of the motorway, at least between a pair of very frequented entrances/exits. Alternatively, even if the 50 are not correct, the highway seems to regularly have 20 lanes.

Now, I see several clues that cast doubt on this claim:

  • The traffic jam happened around a road toll booth, as is mentioned in the article and visible in the third photo. In particular, the third photo shows the vehicles are waiting in front of the toll booth, rather than after it. Typically, motorways get a lot wider for a few hundred meters in front of a toll booth, precisely because traffic is slowed down there, and parallelization helps. In the last photo, it even seems quite clear that the number of lanes is greatly reduced after the toll booth (possibly shrinking to less than 20 lanes?).
  • According to the Wikipedia article, the G4 expressway was completed in 2004. Google Maps photos of the place appear to be from 2015, according to the footer. The depicted location, just about 40km South of Beijing (map markings are slightly shifted toward the East compared to the photos) shows expressway G4 to be a motorway with three lanes per direction. Neither does it seem likely that the motorway would have to be about ten times as wide only a few kilometers North of this, nor (if we assume the Google Maps photos are indeed some years old) that regular traffic volume could have increased that much within just a few years, to warrant such a drastic expansion of road width.

Therefore, my question is: Does any part of the the G4 expressway (or any other Chinese motorway) indeed have a regular (i.e. not just around a checkpoint) width of 20, or even 50 lanes?

  • 1
    Sounds more like they are talking about lanes where you pay the toll on a toll road. So, it may mean that they normally spread a 6 (three in each direction) lane highway to 20 or 50 lanes with toll booths and then rejoin them to the regular number of lane after the toll booths. – JRE Oct 9 '15 at 10:00
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    "The congestion was caused by a new checkpoint at the other side of the toll, which reduced the width of the road from 50 to less than 20 lanes." This is clearly about a checkpoint after the toll booths causing the problem. – JRE Oct 9 '15 at 10:32
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    Take a good look at the photos in the article. The one just above the text "The congestion was caused by a new checkpoint at the other side of the toll, which reduced the width of the road from 50 to less than 20 lanes" clearly shows the toll booths with what could easily be 50 lanes for the booths. It also clearly shows that the highway narrows back down to three lanes as you get past the booths. The other direction is also clearly three lanes. As to the (non) clarity of the text, you do know that "The Daily Mail" is referred to as "The Daily Fail," right? – JRE Oct 9 '15 at 11:39
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    It seems you actually know the answer to this question. The article you refer to clearly shows that this is talking about a checkpoint. Do you see any claim that there is a 50 lane highway elsewhere? if not, then this question is off-topic. – DJClayworth Oct 9 '15 at 13:13
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question doesn't mention a notable claim of there being a 50 lane highway anywhere other than a checkpoint. – DJClayworth Oct 9 '15 at 13:14
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The article refers to the northbound Zhuozhou Toll Gate at the G4 motorway just south of the Beijing city boundary.

As you can see on the aerial photography from Google Maps, at this location, the G4 motorway has 8 lanes (4 in each direction):

https://www.google.de/maps/@39.5485894,116.0341314,675m/data=!3m1!1e3

  • This is exactly the kind of evidence I was looking for, as I could not find the exact location on my own. To make this answer perfect, do you have a reference or something to back up the claim that it is exactly this location (e.g. a complete list of toll gates on the G4 that shows this is the only one in the indicated region)? – O. R. Mapper Oct 9 '15 at 13:49
  • @O.R.Mapper The daily mail article links to their source at people.cn, which writes: 京港澳高速市界进京方向收费站发生拥堵。(the congestion is at the municipality border, heading for Beijing). Travelling towards Beijing, this is the last toll gate before the municipality border. If you look at the surroundings in the aerial photos from the article and compare with Google Maps (e.g. the winding path on the left hand side or the adjacent roads and the oval thing on the right hand side directly before the toll gate, it is obviously the same location. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 9 '15 at 14:23
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    The toll plaza itself appears to have 25 lanes, plus a service road. – hobbs Oct 10 '15 at 15:48
7

I know this is long since solved, but I was looking into it a bit.

If you consider an overhead image of the area that was jammed:

http://a.abcnews.com/images/International/RT_beijing_traffic_1_jt_151008_4x3_992.jpg

You can see that there is far more than 1 car per lane in the plaza. In fact I'm counting 50 cars across which may be where that number came from.

If we look at the images from google maps that Tor-Elinar Jarnbjo provided:

https://www.google.de/maps/@39.5485894,116.0341314,675m/data=!3m1!1e3

We can see that there are:

  • 2 lanes on the far left, which is an entrance ramp for the...
  • 4 lanes on the left, for traffic coming from the other direction.
  • 25 lanes in the toll plaza.
  • 2 lanes on the right which an entrance ramp into the plaza.
  • 2 lanes on the other side of the tree line on the right, which may be for service vehicles.

If you look 500m up the road, there is a plaza for traffic coming from the other direction. There are:

  • 1 lane on the far right, which looks like an express or service lane for the...
  • 4 lanes on the right, for traffic coming from the other direction.
  • 25 lanes in the toll plaza.

Altogether this adds up to 60 lanes. If you only count the toll plazas that is 50 lanes. This could also be where the 50 lane number comes from.

However outside of the plaza there is somewhere between 8 and 11 lanes depending on if you count the service lanes or ramps.

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