The New Zealand Transport Agency has chosen a consortium to enter into preferred bidder negotiations for the $2.5 billion Transmission Gully road project near Wellington.
The announcement was made on Monday during the turning of the first sod of soil to mark the start of construction of the four-lane Mackays to Peka Peka expressway on State Highway 1.
The Wellington Gateway Partnership for the gully project includes Leighton Contractors, Heb Construction, Infrared Infrastructure, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and the Accident Compensation Corporation.
Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said serious discussions would now take place with the consortium.
"What we've done is we've decided we want now to negotiate and agreement with them. So they're at the preferred bidder stage and we've got several months of work to get all of the fine detail of that worked out to a point where we're both happy to sign an agreement."
In November, the Supreme Court dismissed a final appeal from the group Save Kapiti, which is opposed to the expressway. A board of inquiry approved the $630 million project in April this year and an appeal to the High Court by the group was dismissed in August.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the expressway is a critical component of the 100km northern corridor from Wellington airport to Levin.