The Mott MacDonald Sweco joint venture (MMS JV) will explore options for dualling of the A96 between Hardmuir and Fochabers and then take on detailed design work. Transport Scotland said that the value of the contract was up to £50m.
The upgrade is expected to cut driving times between Inverness and Aberdeen.
The entire 86 miles of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen is planned for improvement by 2030. The Hardmuir to Fochabers section consists mainly of single lane carriageway which passes through or close to various towns and villages. Regular bottlenecks occur which leads to traffic congestion and disruption.
MMS JV will begin design and assessment work this summer with the route options assessment process expected to take up to two years to complete.
There will be a number of grade separated junctions along the length of the new road where bypasses are created for a number of communities, such as Forres and Elgin. There will also be crossings of the River Findhorn, the River Lossie and the River Spey as well as the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line.
Details of the A96 dualling programme can be found at: http://www.transport.gov.scot/project/a96-dualling-inverness-aberdeen