Highways England has appointed companies to investigate the options to improve east to west links between the M6 in Cumbria and the A1(M) in the North East and major transport improvements to alleviate congestion on the M60 and M62 between Trafford and Bury.
The strategic studies, which are part of the government’s Road Investment Strategy, have been commissioned by the Department for Transport and Transport for the North (TfN).
A total of 7 studies are taking place across England, including 3 in the North as part of the Northern Powerhouse. The third, announced in July, will assess the viability of a trans-Pennine tunnel.
International engineering consultancy firms WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Arup have been appointed for the latest two Northern studies.
Road Minister Andrew Jones said: "As part of our long term economic plan we are investing a record £13 billion in transport infrastructure in the North, meaning more jobs and opportunities for people across the region.
"Our investment is helping create a Northern Powerhouse and ensuring hardworking people up and down the country feel the benefits of economic growth."
WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has been awarded a £500,000 contract, will lead a joint venture of companies, including Halcrow, TRL and Steer Davies Gleave.
They will examine the case for turning the A66 or A69, or both roads, into dual carriageways as well as making other improvements along their length.
Arup has been awarded a contract worth just over £1 million to consider how the transport network to the northwest of Manchester could be improved, including the M60 from junctions 8 to 18 and the M62 from junctions 9 to 12. The study will examine both road and public transport improvements.
Nigel Edwards, Divisional Director of Strategic Planning at Highways England, said: "These two studies could lead to major benefits across the North and I’m pleased we’ve now reached the stage where we can appoint specialist companies to start this process.
"A new dual carriageway, providing a direct link between Cumbria and the North East, would mean businesses would no longer have to rely solely on the M62 to travel quickly between the two regions.
"We’re already creating a smart motorway on the busiest stretch of the M60 in Greater Manchester, but the new strategic study will look at what else can be done to alleviate congestion in this part of the region."