SANFORD, NC - At least 2,300 people have taken to the internet to petition a road-widening project in Sanford.
The NCDOT project to expand NC 42 will relocate hundreds of graves in a nearby cemetery.
Some of the graves at Shallow Well United Church date to the 1800s, others are much newer, and at least 200 of them stand to be relocated for the NC 42 widening project, plus about 150 reserved plots.
The plan is to widen the road to a four lane highway with a median, walkway and bike lanes - adding about 78 feet from the roadway on each side according to Brandon Jones, NCDOT division engineer heading the project.
The Department of Transportation is reaching out to next of kin for those buried at the cemetery.
You can check to see if your family member's grave is one of those that may be affected here.
"When you're talking about 350, 375 graves or spots that's gonna have to be moved - that's some land," cemetery agent Wayne Watson said, "and even if we take all these, in years to come we're going to run out of space."
Blue survey flags mark the graves have to make way for the $36 million project, and while NCDOT said they're doing their best to keep immediate families together - extended family members might be split.
It's not just the graves that are affected - some folks who live nearby may be forced to sell their property for the project.
"This house right over here, it's going to be cutting in on it," Watson said, pointing to a print plan for the site. "I don't know if it's going to be condemned or not. It's close to it."
Another concern, the church said, there may be several unmarked graves, so there's just no telling how many will be moved with the project.
"They could've made it a lot smaller to not take up so many graves," associate pastor Marty Johnston said, "but you know one day they tell us one thing and then the next day they're telling us something else."
According to NCDOT, they plan to keep the widening project slimmer around Shallow Well United Church than other parts of the highway.
NCDOT told ABC11 that the new roadway is meant to accommodate traffic projections 20 years into the future - a number that's expected to go up by about 50 percent.
It said the two-lane highway sees about the maximum amount of traffic before conditions become congested and unsafe.