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MANTEO, NC (AP) — NC Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata says efforts to block construction of a replacement for the Bonner Bridge are to blame for the current problems.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports Tata told a news conference Wednesday that blame for the delay in replacing the bridge lies with environmental groups who filed a lawsuit. He said opponents to the proposed bridge have no connection to the people or the land of Hatteras Island.

In September, a federal judge approved plans for a parallel span to replace the 50-year-old bridge, rejecting the objections of environmentalists who supported a 17-mile bridge with a price tag of an estimated $1.1 billion.

The Southern Environmental Law Center says the new bridge would cause the same problems that led to the current closure.

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