Interstate 781 New York
Interstate 781 is the designation for the Fort Drum Connector freeway from I-81 east to U.S. 11.1 The freeway connects Exit 48A of I-81 with Iraqi Freedom Drive in Fort Drum, to the north of Watertown. Opened to traffic on December 5, 2012, I-781 includes a single point urban interchange (SPUI) with U.S. 11.
Plans called for the Fort Drum Connector to be built and opened to traffic by 2012 at a cost of $106.2 million.2 The planning, design, and construction process took the better part of a decade to complete:
- Preliminary Design – Summer 2003 to Summer 2006
- Design/Project Development- Winter 2006 to Spring 2010
- Bid Opening – Spring 2010
- Construction – Spring 2010 to
Spring 2012December 6, 2012
East End – LeRay, NY
West End – Pamelia, NY
Mileage – 4.30
Cities – Watertown
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-781 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
|I-81 to US 11||9,935|
|US 11 to Fort Drum||12,794|
Source: 2015 NYSDOT Traffic Data Viewer
Due to increasing development, strategic connectivity between Interstate 81 and Fort Drum, and overall traffic needs the connector (Interstate 781) was proposed for at least a decade. This need was first identified in the mid-1980s with pressure from area development and New York 342 unable to handle the daily traffic to and from the base. The main purpose of the project was to provide a four-lane, Interstate-grade connection from Interstate 81 east to Fort Drum, a U.S. Army Base. The goal enhanced the “strategic viability of the Army Base,” replacing the current route along two-lane New York 342.3
Three alternatives were identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement to carry Interstate 781 to the north gate of Fort Drum:
- Northern Alignment – new freeway parallel to but north of New York 342
- Middle Alignment – follow and upgrade New York 342 to Interstate standards, then create new alignment to reach the north gate of Fort Drum
- Southern Alignment – new freeway parallel to but mostly south of New York 342, with a swing northeast toward the north gate of Fort Drum
The Record of Decision, which was issued on March 6, 2009 by the Federal Highway Administration, identified the Northern Alternative as the preferred alignment for Interstate 781. The report identified the highway as Route 781, without indicating the intended final designation of Interstate 781. With the Record of Decision complete, construction was scheduled to begin in early 2010.
East End / Fort Drum North Gate – LeRay, New York
West End – Pamelia, New York
- Next step taken in building new road.” Watertown Daily Times (NY) July 1, 2008.
- Fort Drum Connector Project (I-81 to US 11) – Project I.D. No. 7804.26.
https://www.nysdot.gov/regional-offices/region7/projects/fort-drum-connectorNYSDOT web site.
- Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Fort Drum Connector Project.
Page updated December 18, 2012.