Fort Drum, NY, Dec 06, 2012 — The new road connecting Interstate 81 with Fort Drum's north gate on Route 11 opens today. It's designed to take traffic off the growing commercial areas outside the Army base.
The road is, officially designated I-781, is a 4.8 mile divided highway with no exits in the middle. It took two years and $57 million to build. But factor in planning, and the whole project took nine years.
State department of transportation spokesman Mike Flick says this day has been a long time coming: "we’ve been looking forward to this day for quite some time and it’s finally here."
But he says you can’t just turn a switch to open a major interchange. For example, "a lot of the signs have heavy duty trash bags over them that are taped in place to make sure they remain covered", and those trash bags need to be taken off.
Supporters of the so-called rooftop highway between Watertown and Plattsburgh see this as a baby first step. But the state DOT came out against a divided highway across the North Country several years ago.
Flick says this road will move military traffic and vehicles heading towards St. Lawrence County off the local roads. "It’s not going to solve every congestion problem on 11 and 342,", he says, "but it’ll certainly alleviate some problems."
One more connector road fact – it’s also named the Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway after the Rome, New York native who was responsible for the reactivation of the 10th Mountain Division, paving the way for the massive growth of today’s Fort Drum.