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Fort Drum connector road to be completed this summer

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WATERTOWN - After finishing the substructures for four bridges last year, workers will complete the finishing touches on the Fort Drum connector road by the end of the summer, with the goal of opening the two-lane, 4.5 mile throughway to traffic in August.

To be called Interstate I-781, the road will provide an easy way for highway traffic to bypass the congestion on Route 11 near Fort Drum by providing a direct route to Interstate 81. The exit off Route 11 will be located at the bridge near Fort Drum’s west gate, and the interstate will span Route 37 and Goulds Corner Road before connecting to I-81.

After the New York State Department of Transportation broke ground in the summer of 2010, most of the preliminary work for the $55 million project was completed in 2011, said DOT spokesman Michael R. Flick. Work to be completed this season will include superstructure work on the four bridges — including installation of decks and steel beams — additional work to level the ground and paving the road.

One of the key components of the project is the construction of the bridge located above Route 11, which will include six lanes and two sets of exits for Route 11 and I-781.

“That’s the biggest bridge for this job, because it’s a more complex structure that has four separate ramps,” he said. “The bridge will be able to channel traffic into Fort Drum from both roads.”

The prime contractor for the project is Lancaster Development of Richmondville, which is being assisted by about a dozen subcontractors for the project — several of which are based in the north country, Mr. Flick said. About 75 workers have been on site for the project at any given time, with more than 100 during peak work times.

With traffic congested along Route 11, the connector road will be a boon both for highway traffic traveling through and the thousands of Fort Drum families who live in the local area.

“Traffic movements now going through that portion off Route 11 between Route 342 and the north gate have caused congestion due to growth in the area,” Mr. Flick said. “This will allow traffic moving north to bypass that area by using the connector road, alleviating the congestion for the local folks going into the post.”

The last step of the project will be to pave the highway, which will ideally take a month if the weather cooperates, Mr. Flick said.

“We got a good start on the earthwork needed to pave the road last year, and we expect to have the work done by August or early September,” he said.

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