Design work starts on A9 upgrade
Transport minister Stewart Stevenson announced the start of early design work to identify the routes for dualling the A96 between Inverness and Nairn, a Nairn by-pass and a new link connecting the A96 to the A9 south of Inverness.
Campaigners have been pressing for years for improvements to the main trunk road between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Land east of Inverness has also been earmarked for significant development, including housing for up to 30,000 people over the next 30 years.
The 500,000 design contract has been awarded to Jacobs Engineering UK and findings are expected next spring.
Mr Stevenson said the study will identify ways to help improve journey times and provide benefits to communities and businesses by better connecting them to economic centres.
He said: "The upgrade will also improve access for passengers to Inverness Airport and other future growth areas on the A96 corridor. It is exactly this type of investment in transport infrastructure projects which is protecting economic recovery."
Upgrading the A96 to dual carriageway between Inverness and Nairn could reduce accident rates by around 40 per cent.
The estimated cost of dualling and linking the A96 and A9 range between 250 million and 500m.