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Originally published Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 5:24 PM

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Chinese stuck in 9-day, 60-mile traffic jam

A massive traffic jam in north China that was triggered by road construction and stretches for dozens of miles could last for three more weeks.

BEIJING — China recently was declared the world's second-largest economy, and it now has a monster traffic jam to match.

For more than nine days, for more than 60 miles, thousands of Beijing-bound vehicles have come to a virtual stop on a highway from Inner Mongolia to the nation's capital.

Truck driver Bai Xiaolong, 30, said it took him five days to navigate the 350-mile journey to Tianjin, a port city east of Beijing. He said he spent much of that time reading, text-messaging and sleeping rather than accelerating.

"There was one day that I didn't move, not even an inch," Bai said.

The traffic jam, triggered by road construction, began 10 days ago and could last for three more weeks, authorities said.

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 trucks that carry fruit and vegetables are not refrigerated, and the cargoes are assumed to be rotting.

On Sunday, the eighth day of the near-standstill, trucks moved little more than one 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 have been set up, leaving only two apparent options — hike to a service area or into the fields.

Still, no reports of road rage have been filed.

Traffic has been building on the highway since the opening of several Mongolian coal mines, vital for China's booming economy that this month surpassed Japan's in size and is now second only to America's.

Another by-product of that economic boom: China has become the world's largest market for new cars. Sales increased 45 percent in 2009, and the number of cars on the road in Beijing increases by 1,900 a day, according to one traffic official.

The average speed of a car during morning commuting hours in the capital is 14.5 mph and is expected to drop to 9 mph by 2015, according to figures released Tuesday by the Beijing Transportation Research Center to state news media.

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