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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The state Department of Transportation is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over the current plan to replace the deteriorating bridge connecting Hatteras Island to the rest of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The state filed its response Wednesday, asking the court to throw out the complaint by groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The response says the lawsuit’s claims are baseless.

The Bonner Bridge was built in 1963 and was designed to last 30 years. The state is moving forward with plans for a replacement that goes through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Environmentalists support a 17-mile alternative that would bypass the refuge.

DOT officials say construction work could start late next year, with the bridge opening in 2015.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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