RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials have signed a settlement with environmental groups that clears the path for construction of major highway project south of Raleigh.

The state's Department of Transportation said Thursday that the deal with Clean Air Carolina will allow construction to begin later this year on the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension, a toll road also known as Complete 540.

Transportation planners have sought the project for years to complete a highway loop around Raleigh.

The settlement requires the department of transportation to take steps to reduce emissions from construction equipment and includes protections for water quality in the area and endangered aquatic species.

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