More than 350 people have responded to a consultation on a preferred route for the ambitious £3 billion A96 dualling project between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Just before Christmas, Transport Scotland unveiled its preferred plan for updating the key road between the east of Huntly and Aberdeen.
The proposal would result in brand new dual carriageway being built over large swathes of currently open countryside between the two communities.
The preferred new stretch of road between Huntly and Aberdeen would be more than 22 miles long, include six grade-separated junctions, and crossings over the River Don, River Urie, and the Aberdeen to Inverness railway.
Some critics have asked for the dualling project to be carried out along the existing A96 on the stretch.
However after investigating the option, Transport Scotland decided against such a move, raising concerns that going along the current road alignment would result in the loss or impact on roadside properties, and compromise the standard of the road that would ultimately be provided.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald called on Transport Scotland to reconsider developing the A96 along the existing route yesterday, the final day of the consultation on the east of Huntly to Aberdeen proposals.
Mr Macdonald said he fears there could be “significant environmental costs” if the project was to go ahead with the currently preferred option.
He said: “The vast majority of this road can be upgraded on-line, and that is what should now happen, to provide a high-quality trunk road from Aberdeen to Inverness with the least possible impact on local communities and the environment.”
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We are continuing to progress our ambitious plans to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.
“As part of that programme, we have been taking forward the route option assessment work for the section of the A96 to be dualled between East of Huntly and Aberdeen.
“Following detailed assessment work and consideration of feedback received, we announced a preferred option in December 2020 which will include improved journey time and reliability for trunk road traffic, strengthening connections to Aberdeen City and between communities in Aberdeenshire, improved road safety and provide opportunities for active travel.
“We would like to thank those who have participated in the preferred option consultation, with over 350 responses received.
“As we develop the preferred option in greater detail, individuals, communities and businesses affected by the work will be kept fully informed and their vital feedback taken into account.”