Some oppose TDOT plan that would bring I-65 closer to cemetery - WSMV Channel 4

Some oppose TDOT plan that would bring I-65 closer to historic cemetery

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

The sound of 18-wheelers is part of the experience when you visit Jones Cemetery in Columbia, TN, which nestled right up against Interstate 65.

It was never intended to be this way. Nearly 500 peaceful grave sites, some of late Tennessee soldiers, have been here since the 1800s, longer than the interstate.

But now the busy freeway may be moving closer to those resting in peace.

"It's going to take away what little bit of peacefulness we had left. And you know, it's just a lack of respect, in my opinion, to come this close to the graves," said Jones Cemetery Commission Chairman John Waldrun.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has proposed a full redesign of the exit and entrance to I-65 at Bear Creek Pike.

The curve has led to a lot of accidents.

"You've got those truckers coming, and it seems like people don't want to slow down to let you in at all," said driver Dan Tomaszewski.

TDOT officials say the plan is to straighten out the ramps and lengthen the merging lane, but to do that, TDOT needs some of the cemetery's land.

The edge of the new freeway on-ramp would fall just 15 feet from the Stoll family grave site, the minimum space required by state law.

Waldrun said he believes visitors will be put in grave danger being so close to traffic while visiting their loved ones.

"If a big tractor-trailer had a wreck and came off of that ramp, he's going to be wiping out tombstones," he said.

In a statement to Channel 4, a TDOT spokesperson said there is no other way to address the safety issues.

However, the cemetery commission and families of those who have died are demanding that TDOT takes a second look.

"We're trying to protect what little bit of serenity we have left," Waldrun said.

Cemetery commissioners are petitioning the project and have asked state lawmakers to expand the distance that's required between a grave site and a freeway.

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