UK engineering firm Mott MacDonald and Swedish planning firm Sweco have been jointly appointed by Transport Scotland as consultants for dualling a 29 mile stretch of the A96.
The A96 stretches from Inverness to Aberdeen, with the proposed dualling stretch situated between Fochabers and Hardmuir.
The two firms (MMS JV) will explore potential options for the work before then taking on the detailed design work.
Transport Scotland say that the contract was worth up to £50 million and hopes the scheme will significantly reduce driving times between Aberdeen and Inverness.
The group is planning to improve the whole 86 miles of the A96 by 2030 and is starting off by targeting the stretches that suffer the worst bottlenecks on a regular basis that result in widespread disruption and traffic congestion.
The Fochabers to Hardmuir section of the road is mainly made up of single lane carriageway which passes close to or through various villages and towns.
The two firms will start their joint venture this summer with their assessment and design work before embarking on the process of assessing the various possible route options, which is anticipated to take up to two years to complete.
Along the full length of the new road there will be numerous grade separated junctions where several communities will see the creation of new bypasses, including Elgin and Forres.
The work will also see the construction of new crossings at the River Spey, the River Lossie and the River Findhorn, along with the rail line between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Earlier in the month, Transport Scotland announced a five month delay on the construction of the Queensferry Crossing.
The original opening date of December 2016 has now been put back to May 2017 due to adverse weather conditions, specifically high winds.