Federal transportation officials reject one funding source for the creation of a four-lane highway to connect Route 81 with Fort Drum, but that doesn't mean the connector highway project is cancelled. Our Katie Gibas explains why.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- It'll make going between Fort Drum and Interstate 81 significantly faster and easier. The Interstate 781 project is moving full steam ahead, despite losing one source of funding.
"The job will be exactly the same as it was. The plans are the same. The plans have been out. The job has been advertised. Contractors have picked up plans. It was just a different way to fund the job," said Michael Flick, NYS DOT Region 7 Spokesperson.
The federal Transportation Department rejected the Interstate 781 grant application. The department had $1.5 billion available for projects across the country, but they received requests totaling more than $57 billion.
Local DOT officials say while it's disappointing, the project won't be affected because the grant was just an alternative way to fund the construction.
"Had we gotten the monies, it would have freed up other monies for use elsewhere. It didn't and we didn't bank on that TIGER grant when the job was put together and developed and when the funding sources were considered," said Flick.
A spokesperson for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the senator is still trying to secure other funding sources for the project, particularly through the job creation bill they're working on because they say it is vital to the North Country economy and will create hundreds of jobs.
"We want to have a large construction project. That creates just. There are secondary and tertiary effects to that between the vendors, suppliers, the diners, the gasoline suppliers and what not," said Flick.
The project is already moving forward with workers clearing the trees and other obstacles before building can begin.
DOT officials are preparing to send out the bids for the actual construction of the project by April 1st.