A major step towards easing traffic congestion in Inverness could be implemented in the next year as Transport Scotland presses ahead with its East Link scheme.
Members of the public will be awarded the opportunity to have their say on the long-awaited project to connect the A9 and A96 from Inshes to Smithton, as exhibition events are to be held later this month.
The project, which has been designed to substantially ease congestion across the city and provide facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, was met with concern at public drop-in sessions in May last year, with locals fearing the new 1.5-mile route would only add to the volume of traffic at Inshes Roundabout.
The project is now entering its statutory process, with draft orders and an environmental impact assessment report issued yesterday by Transport Scotland.
Compulsory purchase orders for 67 individual plots of land have been submitted, with the project estimated to cost between £25 million and £35 million.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “Since we identified the preferred option for the scheme, our design consultants have progressed the detailed design and assessment of the preferred option, which included consideration of all the feedback received, and we are now able to publish draft Orders for this scheme.
“I would encourage anyone with an interest to attend the exhibitions on 25 and 26 September or view the draft Orders and Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the Transport Scotland website.”
The preferred option to progress forward with was identified towards the end of 2017 and is being included in the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, estimated to be worth £315 million.
Public exhibition events are to be held later this month to allow for feedback to be generated on the proposal, with the first scheduled to take place in the Raigmore Community Centre on Wednesday September 25 from noon to 7pm.
A second event will be held in Smithton Church on Murray Road the following day, again from noon to 7pm.
Councillor Margaret Davidson, leader of the Highland Council, welcomed the latest milestone.
She said: “We welcome the progress being made on the East Link and look forward to it being delivered within the remaining seven years of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.
“We will continue to support Transport Scotland to progress the scheme and unlock new development land in East Inverness.”
Material which will be shown as part of the exhibitions later this month will be available to be viewed online from noon on Wednesday September 25.
Draft orders and the environmental impact assessment submitted yesterday are now available to view through the Transport Scotland website.