The Highways Agency has formally invited private sector consortia to bid for the contracts for the M1-A1, A1(M), A417/A419 and the A69.
Under these contracts, the successful consortia will be responsible for improving, maintaining and operating parts of the trunk road network until the end of the 30 year contract period.
The consortia will be responsible for completing the design and construction of approved schemes, for financing the capital cost of these improvements and for the maintenance.
Dr Mawhinney said: 'Traditionally the public sector has had to put up the money and bear most of the risks of road building. DBFO contracts will change all that, placing far more responsibility onto the private sector which will also carry more of the risk.
'The private sector will have freedom to introduce new construction and maintenance methods with incentives to ensure that the roads are serviceable and safe.