The day after a series of fiery crashes on Interstate 35 killed three people under the Valley Mills Drive overpass, Texas Department of Transportation officials are preparing to make repairs to a bridge that suffered minor damage in the fire.
Excess concrete on the Valley Mills flyover bridge onto northbound I-35 had become brittle and fallen onto the interstate, but there was no structural damage to the bridge, TxDOT spokeswoman Jodi Wheatley said.
“Crews will scrape the damaged portions of the concrete off to make sure no other concrete falls and repair the interstate where the trucks caught fire,” Wheatley said. “Neither one is super difficult. It is just a matter of dealing with curing concrete.”
TxDOT expects to have the flyover reopened by 7 a.m. Thursday, she said. Drivers should continue to use extreme caution in the area because work could take longer than expected.
The interstate fully reopened at about 4:20 p.m. Wednesday, but there will be closures again from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday as crews work on the bridge and the burned interstate pavement. No further work is expected to be needed after Thursday morning, but plans could change, Wheatley said.
Crash investigators believe three people died in the six-vehicle pileup Tuesday afternoon, including the driver of one of four tractor-trailers involved, and a woman and a younger person from one of two passenger vehicles involved. Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said officers are continuing work to identify the victims.
Charred portions of the flyover were visible Wednesday as TxDOT inspectors used ladder trucks and other equipment to investigate the stability of the structure. It has remained closed since the wreck at about 2 p.m. Tuesday. The inside lanes of the interstate were also closed Wednesday afternoon to allow access for inspectors.
“There is not any concern about the stability of the bridge itself, but it’s the concrete that was apparently damaged in the heat from the fire causing the concrete to chip off,” Wheatley said.
TxDOT inspectors worked through the afternoon to evaluate the bridge’s integrity.
The interstate was closed from Highway 6 to near McLane Stadium shortly after the wrecks Tuesday, Swanton said. The southbound lanes reopened by about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the northbound lanes remained closed until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Hundreds of motorists were blocked in traffic for hours, prompting Robinson police, other neighboring agencies and community members to take fuel, food and water to stranded motorists late Tuesday night.
Walmart donated water to Victorious Life Church for motorists, according to a press release from Robinson police. The church also offered food as police walked to people stranded to offer assistance.