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Work on Drum connector to be extended through November

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The completion date for the Fort Drum connector road has been pushed back to the end of November because of unexpected delays.

While infrastructure work is mostly done, much of the paving, striping and installation of signs needs to be finished before the four-lane, 4.5-mile highway is opened for traffic, said Michael R. Flick, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. To be formally named the Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway, Interstate 781 will connect at the Fort Drum exit off Route 11 and provide a direct link to Interstate 81, spanning Route 37 and Goulds Corners Road.

The project deadline was the end of October, Mr. Flick said, but the state granted a one-month extension. Last month, about 50,000 tons of asphalt still needed to be laid to pave the road.

“We’ll probably use up most of the time, and it’s quite likely it’ll be at the end of November before the project is complete,” Mr. Flick said, explaining that much of the work is dependent on weather. “With two weeks of great weather, we can get ahead, but with two weeks of rain, we’re way behind.”

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the large interchange bridge off Route 11 at the Fort Drum exit near the west gate of the post. The bridge will create a six-lane interchange with two pairs of exit ramps for routes 11 and I-781, which will enable eastbound traffic entering the fort and westbound traffic to I-81 to flow constantly. There will be traffic lights for left-hand turns to enable traffic to and from Watertown to access I-781 or the Drum exit.

Workers will pave and seal the bridges as one of the final steps of the project.

“Much of that work is heavily weather dependent,” Mr. Flick said. “Rising temperatures of at least 50 degrees are needed to seal the bridge decks.”

The $55 million state project, which broke ground in August 2010, is expected to ease traffic congestion by allowing southbound highway traffic on Route 11 to bypass the business district near Fort Drum by traveling west on the connector to I-81. It also will take much of the Fort Drum-bound traffic off Route 11. The project’s prime contractor is Lancaster Development of Richmondville, which has been assisted by about a dozen subcontractors.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be planned for when the highway is finished, Mr. Flick said.

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