Motorists face disruption as six months of major roadworks are carried out on the Cromarty Bridge next year.
The refurbishment of bridge on the A9 Inverness to Thurso road has been scheduled to start from April to avoid winter weather which could hold the work up.
But it could have a major impact on visitors to the Highlands – including the thousands who arrive on cruise ships in Invergordon.
Bear Scotland said it has been in talks with the Cromarty Firth Port Authority, Highland Council and other stakeholders ahead of the project.
The £4million scheme involves repairs to the bridge deck and supports, installation of new bridge joints and well as the fitting of protective measures to prevent any further deterioration.
The work follows similar repairs in 2011 to upgrade the first four spans of the bridge.
Eddie Ross, of Bear Scotland, said lessons had been learned from that project which would allow next year’s work to go smoothly.
He said that traffic analysis had suggested that delays of 10 minutes are likely at peak times but added that efforts would be made to minimise disruption.
Mr Ross said: “The next phase of works will allow us to upgrade the next four spans on Cromarty Bridge to withstand the harsh natural environment, making sure it will remain in safe working condition for years to come.
He added: “The next stage will be to have a public information meeting in the New Year where we can share the plans for the Cromarty Bridge refurbishment with the local communities.
“We have taken on board some of the lessons learned from the works carried out during the improvements in 2011 and will incorporate these into our strategy for completing this next phase in 2017.
“We’ve already completed advanced works earlier this year which will help facilitate the bridge refurbishment programme to further limit the overall impact of the project.”