BELL COUNTY (July 18, 2014) The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 were reopened just after 2 p.m. Friday between Waco and Temple, two hours after the northbound side of the highway was cleared and nearly 12 hours after three separate 18-wheeler accidents that shut down the highway in both directions.
Southbound traffic was stacked up for about 14 miles into Waco, the Texas Department of Transportation said, and it could take several hours for normal traffic flow to resume.
The highway was closed down at around 2:45 a.m. Friday near Blevins Road and authorities began to divert traffic onto access roads.
When the northbound lanes reopened just before noon Friday, traffic was backed up for about eight miles, all the way to Temple, TxDOT said.
Northbound traffic was still moving slowly early Friday afternoon, TxDOT said.
One of the 18-wheelers that crashed was spilled its load bentonite, a material commonly used in drilling mud.
When combined with water, it serves as a lubricant, which made the highway slick and required a hazardous material team response to clean up the southbound lanes.
The crash also knocked down several concrete median walls and sent two to area hospitals.
The first accident happened just before 3 a.m. at mile marker 315 and shortly after two more accidents happened between 315 and 314, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety said.
Authorities directed traffic onto access roads, but the backup extended northward to Hewitt and southward to Temple by mid-morning and left many drivers with no place to go.
Northbound traffic was being directed onto the access road at exit 314 and southbound traffic was directed off the highway at exit 315.
The Texas Department of Transportation urged motorists to find alternate routes to avoid long wait times.