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DOT Encounters "Grave" Problem with Outer Loop Construction

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RALEIGH — Construction on Raleigh's outer loop has hit a snag. Crews need to move two cemeteries, but they are having trouble finding the next of kin to get permission.

One cemetery is located near Gresham Lake Road and Capital Boulevard where a cloverleaf for Interstate 540 is planned. The other is at the intersection of I-540 and Highway 401.

A century-old site with 20 graves was rediscovered by theDepartment of Transportationa few weeks ago. The cemeteries must be moved by the end of the month to keep construction on schedule.

Bonnie Tripp of the DOT says the cemetery sits on land slated for the I-540 cloverleaf being built near Capital Boulevard.

"When a graveyard is this old, most of the family has probably already moved away," Tripp says. "If nobody's actually keeping up with it, it kind of gets lost in time."

Tripp wants to find relatives of the known and unknown people in the graves before the DOT moves them.

Down the road, the DOT discovered 150 more graves near the future intersection of I-540 and Highway 401.

The discoveries do not surprise Debbie Blake, a state archivist who studies grave sites.

"We don't normally hit this many graves on a project," Blake says. "But with the way Raleigh's growing, I suspect we'll hear more and more about cemeteries that are turning up."

A Franklin County church has agreed to take the 20 graves found near Capital Boulevard, but the state still must find a final resting place for the others.

"It's a very uncomfortable thing, because you know as kids we were taught not to even step on graves," Tripp says. "But I try to do it with the most professionalism I can, and with the most respect to the deceased as I can possibly give them."

So far, no one has come forward to claim any of the graves. If that remains the case, the DOT will simply document them and then move them.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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