Families Start Petition Against Interstate Expansion Into Cemetery

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Families Start Petition Against Interstate Expansion Into Cemetery

CREATED Jul 21, 2014
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - Some residents in Columbia say a Tennessee Department of Transportation proposal would not allow their loved ones to rest in peace.

Under the plan TDOT would acquire land currently belonging to the Jones Cemetery to make an interchange off Interstate 65 safer.

“It’s a sacred place, you know hallowed ground,” Cemetery Board Chairman John Waldrum said.

He visits the Jones Cemetery often to pay his respects. One day Waldrum hopes this too will be his final resting place.

“That's my dad…we own the next eight lots here,” he said while walking up to the tombstone.

“We have between 450 and 500 graves here and as a member of our board I feel that it’s our responsibility to try to protect it as much as possible.”

Protecting the property that dates back to the late 1800's is becoming more difficult as the area along Bear Creek Pike continues to grow. First with the interstate, then gas stations and a truck stop.

“Everything is growing and we're tired of scooting over,” Waldrum said.

As a result of the growth TDOT wants to widen Bear Creek Pike to improve the traffic flow and make merging onto Interstate 65 much safer especially for semi-trucks.

“I'm shocked someone hasn't gotten hurt yet,” truck driver Lynn Vickery said. “I mean the ramp goes around and to pull into 70 mile an hour traffic to merge into it doing 35 miles an hour. You may be doing 30 at the most.”

“They're wanting to come straighten the exit up and then bring a new ramp right up through this field,” Waldrum said about TDOT’s plan. “It's going to come within fifteen feet of this grave right here.”

TDOT’s plan will not disturb any of the graves, still Waldrum is joining with others to start a petition.

“It's disrespectful to start with,” he said.

They already have 200 signatures asking TDOT to find another way to make improvements that allows their loved ones to rest in peace

“We've got seniority,” Waldrum said. “We were here in the late 1800's. That should count for something but it doesn't seem to.”

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