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VDOT Responds to Western Bypass Cemetery Concerns

January 30, 2013

In preparing for the Route 29 Western Bypass, the Virginia Department of Transportation has already realigned the roads so it wouldn't interfere with a cemetery for pets.

Now that the route of the bypass is finalized, VDOT has discovered a human burial site and is left figuring out what to do next.

The African-American family cemetery near Lambs Road dates back to the 1800s.

"Actually, it's a good thing they've uncovered it at this point because my understanding of it is that VDOT often will uncover these as they're building when they're in the construction phase," said Albemarle County supervisor Ken Boyd, a longtime supporter of the bypass.

VDOT is communicating with the descendants of those buried there who are still in central Virginia. Now, there are questions on whether this will hinder construction.

"I hope it doesn't, because I think this is an important road that we need to move forward with, but I know that VDOT does have a process that they have to follow," Boyd said.

VDOT is following that process now. The organization released the following statement to the Newsplex:

The Virginia Department of Transportation is aware of the Sammons family cemetery near Lambs Road, on the right of way for the Route 29 Charlottesville Bypass in Albemarle County. It is not uncommon for cemeteries, particularly small family burial plots, to be identified during the design and construction of highway projects. VDOT is sensitive to the needs and concerns of the family members involved and we have procedures in place and Environmental and Right of Way specialists to research and evaluate the significance of such cemeteries. That process is currently under way; VDOT is working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to determine the appropriate action.

"I would certainly be in favor of doing whatever the family wanted to do, if it's at all possible to do," Boyd said.

A VDOT document from 2011 reports the road had already been realigned so it doesn't interfere with a pet cemetery near the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.

Boyd said any other realignment could be expensive and time-consuming.

"They've said all along that any deviation from that would take it outside of the lawsuit that's already been done on this, so I think they would like to stay in that particular route because it's already been tested in the courts," Boyd said.

It's a test that bypass supporters hope to avoid taking again.

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