NCDOT planning road improvements where 8-year-old girl was killed

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Friday, May 18, 2018
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NCDOT is widening NC-42 in Johnston County

JOHNSTON COUNTY, NC (WTVD) -- NC-42 in Johnston County is prepping to undergo a major road widening in an effort to improve traffic control.

On Wednesday, 8-year-old Clayton resident Lucy Hutchins was killed when the car she was riding in crashed into a tree stump.

According to the Highway Patrol, 42-year-old Douglas Hutchins was behind the wheel when he swerved to avoid a car turning left onto Woodberry Drive.

Hutchins, along with Lucy and her 11-year-old sister Ella, went off the road and traveled nearly 60 feet down an embankment, before hitting a tree stump and flipping the vehicle. All three were taken to WakeMed in Raleigh, where Lucy later died.

"We're going to investigate the intersection," said NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale. "We won't do a criminal investigation. We're going out and we're looking to see if there's anything about the design of the road that we can do to improve it. Anything we can do to the current conditions of the road - the signage, the striping."

The DOT is already in the early stages of widening NC-42 between Glen Laurel Road and Buffaloe Road.

Crews started clearing trees and brush several weeks ago and look forward to starting construction in the fall.

Currently, two lanes take drivers back and forth along the highway. Plans will include widening the stretch of road from two lanes to four, complete with a median.

"We'll have a median so that people can really only turn left at traffic lights and other designated areas," Barksdale added. "Some of the traffic on the side streets, such as Woodberry, will no long have the option to turn left."

Barksdale said drivers would more than likely be forced to make a U-turn at a nearby traffic light. The cost of the project is said to be an estimated $44 million dollars and be completed in two to three years.

According to the NCDOT, medians can reduce traffic by up to 50 percent in some cases.

Once crews begin widening the road, Barksdale said "Eventually, pretty soon, we will have some kind of barrier between the two travel lanes that the public will use and the construction area."

A barrier of sorts, such as a guardrail, may have prevented Wednesday's fatality.

Barksdale, however, declined to say if a guardrail would be erected where Woodberry Drive meets NC-42. "We'll look at five years of crash data to see if there are any trends," Barksdale said.

A study of the area following the fatal accident can take up to 4 weeks.

Beginning in 2022, the NCDOT is planning to widen NC-42 from two to four lanes between US-70 Business in Clayton and NC-50, just west of the I-40 interchange with NC-42.

A median will also be included in this construction.

Per the NCDOT website, "Additionally, work would involve replacing three NC-42 bridges that no longer meet today's traffic demands. Those bridges cross Swift Creek, Little Creek, and White Oak Creek. The cost of this project is estimated to be $66.2 million dollars."