Effective Project Scoping Practices to Improve On-Time and On-Budget Delivery of Highway Projects


TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 821: Effective Project Scoping Practices to Improve On-Time and On-Budget Delivery of Highway Projects demonstrates how a state department of transportation (state DOT) can enhance its scoping process and practices to produce a project cost estimate and schedule that facilitate improved programming decision making and accountability. The guidebook illustrates the effort needed to develop a robust cost estimate and then manage to a baseline budget and scope throughout the project delivery cycle. The guidebook is applicable to a range of project types and is scalable in its ability to accommodate projects of varying complexity.

Increasing or otherwise changing the scope of a project to improve facility performance is a common source of cost increases and schedule delays, as is failure to adequately consider project impacts on utilities, communities, or the environment. Industrial and commercial building construction sectors have experienced similar problems with construction project scope growth, cost increases, and time delays that occur after a project has been authorized for detailed design and construction.

Recent research in these sectors has produced a structured and systematic process to help owners meet project cost and schedule objectives by defining a project to a suitable level of development prior to authorization of detailed design. Statistical evidence indicates that earlier and more detailed scoping efforts can reduce total design and construction cost by as much as 20%, and shorten total design and construction schedules by as much as 39%. Such scoping processes, with supporting indices and tools to calibrate the level of scoping effort required to achieve these results, have become standard procedures that many private U.S. corporations use in their capital facilities development efforts. With modifications, these processes and tools may be transferable to the transportation industry.

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