Five groups will compete for a contract to build a long-awaited bridge linking Sicily with mainland Italy, reports from Italy have said.
The bridge has proved to be a controversial project
The 4.6bn euro ($5.6bn; £3.1bn) project is at prequalification stage, with a main contractor expected to be chosen by spring 2005.
Contractors in the running include local firms Impregilo, Astaldi and Risalto, Italian newspapers have said.
Work is due to begin in late 2005 and is expected to take about six years.
The 3.6 kilometre tollroad bridge will be one of the biggest and most costly public works projects Italy has undertaken.
The bridge will carry a double six-lane highway and four tracks for a high-speed railway line.
The project is popular with Sicilian politicians and administrators but has been criticised by environmentalists as a waste of money.
The state agency Stretto di Messina is the client for the project.