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Drum connector road set to be completed next month

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After two construction seasons, the Fort Drum connector road is set to be completed by early September.

Workers are putting finishing touches on Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway — or Interstate 781 — which was named for the installation’s former commander Lt. Gen. Paul G. Cerjan. An August completion date originally was predicted for the $55 million state Department of Transportation project, but workers will spend the rest of the month putting the final touches on bridges and paving the double-lane highway.

The 4.5-mile throughway will provide a detour for traffic to bypass congestion on Route 11 near Fort Drum by creating a link to Interstate 81. The exit off Route 11 will be at the bridge near Fort Drum’s west gate, and the new road will span Route 37 and Goulds Corners Road before connecting to Interstate 81.

“We now fully expect the road to be open by September,” DOT spokesman Michael R. Flick said. “We were hoping it would be earlier, but there is still some bridge and earth work we need to do.”

The concrete deck was poured recently for the large interchange bridge off Route 11 at the Fort Drum exit, Mr. Flick said, which is now complete. The bridge will establish a six-lane urban interchange with two pairs of exit ramps for Route 11 and I-781, allowing eastbound traffic to Fort Drum and westbound to I-81 to flow continuously. Streetlights for left-hand turns will allow traffic coming into and out of the city on Route 11 to hop on the I-781 or the Fort Drum exit.

The interchange “will allow unencumbered traffic movements,” he said. “The only time you will see a light is for left-hand-turning movements.”

Lane closures on Route 11 to build the bridge started April 18 and lasted about two weeks, Mr. Flick said.

He said the project is expected to provide an array of benefits by encouraging business development off Route 11 and freeing highway traffic. Highway trucks heading north or south that formerly had to slow down to get through the business district near Fort Drum will now be able to bypass that congestion easily.

Trucks “that are bringing in shipments to and from the base will now be able to connect directly from I-81,” Mr. Flick said. “As long as the post is your destination, you’ll have a clean shot in and out that will allow the exit to function” seamlessly.

While the bypassed traffic could take potential customers away from businesses off Route 11 in the town of LeRay, less traffic will benefit military families and residents.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Steven T. Harter, administrative clerk to the LeRay supervisor. “It will make some of the residents happier because there will be less congestion on Route 11, but by the same token there will be less traffic for the business community. But it will give military families direct access to the interstate.”

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