Leading construction firms are vying for the £70 million next stage of the A9 dualling project.
Transport bosses working on Scotland’s largest-ever infrastructure project said they will now turn their attention to the Luncarty to Pass of Birnam section, following the end of two years’ work on the Kincraig to Dalraddy stretch.
Economy secretary Keith Brown announced the new four-and-a-half mile dual carriageway near Aviemore will open to traffic in the coming days, marking a “significant milestone”.
During a site visit on Wednesday, Mr Brown revealed a shortlist of companies has been drawn up for highly lucrative work on the next phase, a six-mile route north of Perth.
Among the firms competing for the work is Balfour Beatty which is currently working on the £35 million Perth Transport Futures scheme, a series of new roads and junctions on the edge of the city.
Also in the running is Farrans Construction and Roadbridge; Wills Bros Civil Engineering and Lagan Construction Group and Dragados.
A contract is likely to be awarded in the coming months.
Mr Brown insisted that the full £3 billion plan was on budget and on target to open in 2025.
Welcoming progress on the £35m Kincraig route, he said: “When this section is open to traffic, drivers will enjoy safer opportunities to overtake, a reduction in frustration, reduced congestion, improved journey times and a better experience travelling between the central belt and Inverness.
“Building this section first should be particularly warmly welcomed by drivers, as it introduces dual carriageway to what has been one of the longest stretches of single carriageway on the A9.”
He added: “It will make an important contribution towards our goal of inclusive sustainable economic development by opening up our country for trade and tourism.
“Work on A9 dualling is continuing at pace, with preferred routes having been identified for more than 90% of the programme, and we expect to award the contract for the Luncarty to Pass of Birnam section in the first half of 2018.”
Wills Bros Civil Engineering and John Paul Construction worked on the Kincraig to Dalraddy section.