The bypass work is due for completion in 2012
Work on the long-awaited £31.5m bypass around the Moray town of Fochabers has got under way.
Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson cut the first turf to signal the project beginning.
The aim is to relieve traffic congestion. It will mean that vehicles on the A96 will not have to travel through Fochabers and Mosstodloch.
The work will be undertaken by Morrison Construction and is due for completion in 2012.
It will see a new 5km stretch on the main road between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Mr Stevenson said: "This is an essential route in Scotland's trunk road network, and I'm delighted to personally kick off construction on this vital project.
"When complete, the stretch of new road will improve transport links along the length of this route, help tackle congestion in and around Fochabers and Mosstodloch, as well as bring economic benefits for businesses and communities right across the north."