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      Work on new Fort Drum highway to begin this week

      Work is expected to begin soon on a new highway linking Fort Drum to Interstate 81 in northern New York.

      State transportation department officials say a contract worth $56.5 million has been awarded to Lancaster Development of Richmondville in Schoharie County to build the 4.5-mile, four-lane connector from Fort Drum's main gate to I-81. A new highway exit will be built near Exit 48, just north of Watertown.

      Transportation officials say Tuesday construction will begin this week. Site preparation along the corridor was completed in May.

      The connector road will be known as Interstate 781 and will provide a more direct route to the home of the 10th Mountain Division.

      The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2012.

      In other Fort Drum news, more troops are returning to the fort after being deployed overseas.

      Officials at the Army post in northern New York say a contingent of 375 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team are just back from Iraq, where they spent the past eight months deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      While overseas, the troop were responsible for helping train Iraqi security forces and assisting Iraq's government in protecting the population.