Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin signed off the planning inspector’s report this week allowing the £120m project to proceed to the tendering stage.
Four bidders have already been shortlisted for the project, but the local city council has kept the firms’ names under tight wraps.
Balfour Beatty, Vinci, Ferrovial and Graham Construction are believed to be the quartet in the hunt for the Sunderland crossing from Castletown to Pallion.
After a six month bidding process, construction could start in the spring of 2013 and take around three years to complete.
The Government announced in December last year that it was prepared to put more than £80m towards the 336m long landmark bridge and its approach roads.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is the biggest civil engineering project in the North East and will sustain several hundred jobs across the city and region. It will now take several months to complete the tendering process.
“In the long-run it is estimated, and this was a key element of the bid to Government, that it could help to create up to six thousand jobs across the city.”
By improving links from the A19 to the city centre and the Port of Sunderland, the project opens up new areas of development land along the south of the river. This will increase regeneration opportunities for both businesses and residents.
Councillor James Blackburn, the council’s Portfolio Holder for City Services, said: “The New Wear Crossing is a major civil engineering project. Work on the tenders and contract documentation reflects the scale and complexity of its planned construction.
“It is a project that can bring considerable economic and social benefits to the city and our region.”
The project is in line with the city’s Economic Masterplan. As part of its submission to the Government, the council outlined how the project can deliver measurable public value and a return on investment at a ratio of £4 for every £1 invested.