The massive A9 improvement scheme will reach an important milestone in the New Year as work to create the first stretch of new dual carriageway in Perthshire begins.
Miles of new road are already under construction in the Highlands where the first section to be dualled, between Kincraig and Dalraddy, will open to traffic in the summer.
Major construction has yet to start on the southern stretch but Transport Scotland has confirmed that will soon change.
With the finalised route for the Luncarty to Pass of Birnam stretch confirmed, contractors will arrive in late 2017.
The exact date for the start of work is to be finalised, but Economy and Jobs Secretary Keith Brown MSP said it was clear evidence of the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering the “ambitious programme”.
Once under way, the Perthshire works are expected to take 22 months to complete, which will undoubtedly result in some delays for motorists and inconvenience for residents.
Transport bosses have pledged to keep two lanes of traffic open “as far as possible” to minimise disruption.
They have, however, admitted there may be some lane closures for particularly challenging activities such as bridge beam lifting and constructing the tie-ins.
Mr Brown said: “The Scottish Government is committed to delivering our ambitious programme to upgrade the A9 to dual carriageway between Perth and Inverness.
“The publication of road orders for the next section to be dualled between Luncarty and the Pass of Birnam is a clear signal of that commitment.
“We expect to start the procurement process for the main construction contract for this project next year with work starting on the ground toward the end of 2017.”
The minister added: “Next summer will see the first section to be dualled between Kincraig and Dalraddy open to traffic.
“We remain on target to complete the work in 2025 bringing faster journey times, better journey time reliability and road safety improvements for anyone travelling between the cities of Perth and Inverness.”
As the project progresses, it has emerged that transport bosses have still to decide exactly where more than half the stretches of dual carriageway required will go.
They have currently identified “preferred routes” for over 36 miles of the 80 miles that need to be dualled.
The Scottish Government has made numerous pledges to the people of Perthshire ahead of the start of work on the Luncarty to Pass of Birnam stretch, including a promise to minimise disruption and inconvenience.
A range of measures will be implemented during construction including pollution control, noise and dust mitigation and timing the works to avoid sensitive periods or night-time working.
Effort will also be made to landscape the area surrounding the new roads to “replace loss of habitat, screen views and to help integrate the new A9 into its surroundings”.
Wildlife protection measures will be undertaken, with public exhibitions having detailed the new mammal tunnels that will be created to support the movement of otters and other species beneath the road.
New cycle and foot paths will also be created.