The population of Johnston County has tripled since 1970, with most of the growth coming in the northwest part of the county closest to the Triangle. Yet N.C. 42 between the Cleveland community and Clayton is still a two-lane highway.
Now the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to change that.
NCDOT will present preliminary plans for widening N.C. 42 to four lanes from N.C. 50 east to U.S. 70 Business in Clayton. The public can see and comment on them at an open house meeting at the Clayton Center on Thursday evening or online at www.ncdot.gov/projects/nc42widening/.
The project would turn an eight-mile stretch of N.C. 42 into a divided highway, with left turns limited to intersections. The section in Clayton, from U.S. 70 Business to the U.S. 70 Bypass, would include a sidewalk and multi-use path.
Traffic on this stretch of N.C. 42 reaches as high as 22,000 vehicles a day, but is expected to average as many as 35,000 a day by 2040, according to NCDOT.
NCDOT is seeking public feedback on the plans now, even though it doesn't expect to begin construction until 2022. That's because the state first wants to finish a planned reconfiguration of the N.C. 42 interchange with Interstate 40, which is expected to get started in the fall of 2020. The new traffic pattern at the interchange will include a diverging diamond and new ramps that will give drivers the option of getting on or off I-40 directly at nearby Cleveland Road.
"There will be a lot of construction in this vicinity soon, so people may experience some growing pains when construction is underway," said NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale. "But the projects are needed to not only keep up with growth but plan for anticipated future growth in the population and in traffic volumes in the Clayton area."
Barksdale said the plans NCDOT will present this week are preliminary and that the department will hold another public meeting next year when it has more detailed final designs based on surveying. The final designs will show precisely how much property and homes would need to be bought for the wider highway.
The widening of N.C. 42 is expected to cost about $66 million, including the replacement of bridges over three creeks along the route.
NCDOT will present design maps from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Clayton Center, 111 East Second St. The department will accept public feedback until May 25. In addition to the website, people may submit comments to consultant Leza Wright Mundt at 919-852-0468 or firstname.lastname@example.org or to project manager Matt Clarke at 252-640-6419 or email@example.com.
The widening of N.C. 42 west of Clayton is distinct from another NCDOT effort to widen N.C. 42 on the east side of town, from Glen Laurel Road past Flowers Plantation to Buffalo Road. Contractors are expected to begin widening that stretch of highway from two to four lanes later this year.