Work will begin in Leith, with the two-phase project continuing for more than three and a half years.
The diversion of utility pipes and cables for water, gas, electricity and telecommunications will be followed by construction of the tram lines.
The first trams are expected to start running between Newhaven and the airport by Christmas 2010. However, a section between the planned tram depot at Gogar and Edinburgh airport or Haymarket could open a year earlier. The developers have said this would give the public an advance payback for the disruption caused by construction work.
The council yesterday issued the required 28 days' notice of the start of work on the 592 million scheme, which could get under way around 2 April.
The date will be confirmed when ministers approve the business case for the project, which may happen next week.
Council firm TIE, the former Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, which is spearheading the project, said full details of the roadworks would be published once approval was given.
Trial roadworks are due to start in Tower Street in Leith, then move up Leith Walk to the city centre, taking some 18 months to complete. A second wave of road closures will be for construction of the tram lines, stops and overhead wires, which is expected to start in December and continue until 2010.
There will be up to seven roadworks sites, each up to 200 metres long, operating at the same time. The council said this would minimise disruption.
A spur line between Roseburn and Granton Square will be built at the same time if funding allows.
However, the two remaining sections, between Granton Square and Newhaven, and the airport and Newbridge, require extra cash. The type of tram carriage is yet to be finalised, but will probably resemble that on the Luas service, which has been operating in Dublin since 2004.
Ricky Henderson, the council's executive member for transport, pledged that residents and businesses would be kept fully informed.
He said: "This is a preparatory step. A date for work starting will be set, if appropriate, following an announcement from the minister.
"Whilst we are waiting for that approval we want to start putting steps in place for getting work started."
Willie Gallagher, TIE's chairman, has said he backs moves to open part of the system in 2009 "so people can see the pain was worth it".
He said: "They will want to see a reason for all this hassle.