The contract, which could be worth up to £50m, is expected to be awarded later this year.
Work covers the eastern section of the Scottish Government’s ambitious programme to dual the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen by 2030.
Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown said: “This major contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96.
“This contract will provide the successful bidders with steady work for years to come and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work, so it will be a boost for the local and national economy.
He added: “At the same time, we are progressing other parts of the A96 dualling programme with draft orders published for the Inverness to Nairn (including Nairn Bypass) late last year and design work underway for the western section between Hardmuir and Fochabers.