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A newly installed smart traffic light at Route 40 and Oak Hill Road, has tamed the dangerous intersection that nearly cost a local woman her life.
State Rep. James Arciero, a Westford Democrat, hailed the installation of the traffic light.
“It is satisfying to know in this era of shutdowns and political cynicism that government can still work for positive change. This project is particularly satisfying knowing the dangerousness of this busy intersection,” said Arciero.
Marking the start of the fully operational intersection were Nabnasset residents Dan Doherty and his sister-in-law, Diana Duffy Wilcox of Westford. On Oct. 22, 2008, Wilcox was stopped on Route 40 waiting to take a left turn onto Oak Hill Road, when a car from Oak Hill pulled out, causing a landscaping truck & trailer headed east on Rt. 40 to swerve and hit Ms. Wilcox’s car head on.
The force of the crash not only totaled her Ford Escape, but also the Lincoln Navigator behind her. She was unconscious and taken by ambulance to Lowell General Hospital. In critical condition with a traumatic brain injury, she was transferred by helicopter to Brigham & Woman’s Hospital where she remained in a coma for two weeks in their intensive care unit.
“Our family was told by the head of neurology that there was a 90 percent chance she would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, it was truly a miracle when she woke up,” said Doherty.
A survivor of colon cancer, Ms. Wilcox’s road to recovery started with a two week stay in rehabilitation at the New England Medical Center to ween her off a breathing tube. Once she could breathe on her own, it was a month long stay on the traumatic brain injury floor at Spaulding Rehab in Boston. Wilcox was home just in time for Christmas, but the day after New Year’s she was admitted to Emerson Hospital. As a result of the accident, she had to have her spleen removed.
The next six months were spent between doctor appointments and physical therapy. As a result of the brain injury, Diana lost her sense of taste and smell, and all feeling in her right foot. She had to learn to walk again. In July 2009, as a consequence of the car accident and her severe injuries, Diana’s kidneys failed. This resulted in another lengthy five week hospital stay at Massachusetts General Hospital and a diagnosis of dialysis for life.
Three months later, and a week before she was to meet with a kidney transplant team to discuss her options, the renal doctor was astonished to discover that Diana’s kidneys had healed themselves. The doctor said that he had only witnessed this three times in his 20 years of medical practice.
Following this severe accident, and knowing of many other crashes at the dangerous intersection, Doherty advocated with Arciero and the Town of Westford for them to take action at the state level to address his public safety concerns at this busy transportation spot. Working cooperatively together, Arciero and Westford town officials worked to secure critical funding and a plan to improve the safety features of the intersection, which would include traffic signalization and new lane configurations to address the heavy volume of traffic along Route 40.
“I commend Danny and his family for their advocacy to address this traffic issue which so greatly impacted their family and almost cost them one of their loved ones. I know there have been other fatalities and serious accidents at this intersection and I am hopeful these meaningful changes will result in greater safety for all commuters. I am grateful to the Executive Office of Transportation and the town of Westford for their actions in this important project.” said Arciero.
“Throughout this ordeal, Wilcox has always said how lucky she’s been in her unluckiness. She’s had the finest doctors and nurses from six different hospitals, the unending love and support of her husband and family, as well as her village of people who showed such kindness with so very many well wishes and prayers (and hot meals!).
Wilcox’s sister, Donna Doherty praised Arciero for his dogged efforts to get a light at the intersection, and acknowledged Town Engineer Paul Starratt for his oversight of the project completed only last month.
“My gratitude goes to the Westford Police Department and to the Westford Fire Chief who together came to my house to personally to tell me of my sister’s accident,” Donna Doherty said.