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The success of long-range transportation planning is dependent on the accuracy of projects’ scope of work, cost estimates, and schedules. Obtaining this accuracy can be very difficult, since only limited information is available during the initial project-planning stages. The development of preliminary project scope, cost, and schedule involves numerous sources of uncertainty, such as future market prices, users’ needs, supply chains, weather conditions, design details, and unexpected site characteristics, among others. For project proposals to be reliable they need to take into account the potential effects of these complex factors. Additionally, when local agencies submit potential projects to MPOs for consideration in the region’s transportation plans, they frequently seek federal or state funding to cover part or all of the costs for the proposed transportation improvements. MPOs may have access to funding programs from multiple federal and state agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state departments of transportation (DOTs). The use of these funding sources can come with additional requirements and regulations that are not mandated for locally funded projects. In many cases the additional project requirements of federal and state funding agencies may be unfamiliar to local governments, and accounting for these funding requirements may increase the time and cost of project development. For these reasons, local agencies sometimes submit proposals to their MPO with unrealistic cost estimates and/or overly optimistic letting dates. If the agencies and the MPO are not careful when creating and reviewing project proposals, significant negative repercussions can occur. In the worst-case scenario, the local agency may be surprised by snowballing costs and run out of funds to pay for its share of the project, leading to delays and cancellations. Furthermore, if an approved project is not ready for letting during its scheduled timeline, the MPO may be required to revise the area’s entire Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) or Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). This can result in the MPO not meeting its transportation agenda or its air-quality goals. Meanwhile, other projects that potentially would have been completed on time and within budget may not have been approved for funding, because they were eclipsed by the over-optimistic project that was unable to meet its proposed cost and schedule.
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Project Scoping Guidebook for Metropolitan
Planning Organization Transportation Projects
Product 0-6929-P1
Cooperative Research Program
in cooperation with the
Federal Highway Administration and the
Texas Department of Transportation
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY–KINGSVILLE
DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AND ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING
KINGSVILLE, TEXAS 78363
Project Scoping Guidebook for Metropolitan Planning Organization
Transportation Projects (0-6929-P1)
by
Amir R. Hessami, Ph.D., P.E., PMP
Assistant Professor
Dazhi Sun, Ph.D.
Professor
Gabriel J. Odreman
Research Assistant
Xiaohuan Zhou, Ph.D.
Research Assistant
Texas A&M University – Kingsville
and
Ali Nejat, Ph.D., P.E.
Associate Professor
Mohammadhossein Saeedi
Research Assistant
Texas Tech University
TxDOT Project 0-6929
Project Title: Enhanced Cost Estimating and Project Development Procedures for MPOs
August 2017
Performing Organization:
Texas A&M University – Kingsville
Civil and Architectural Engineering
700 University Blvd
Kingsville, TX 78363
Sponsoring Organization:
Texas Department of Transportation
Research and Technology Implementation Office
P.O. Box 5080
Austin, Texas 78763-5080
Performed in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
DISCLAIMER
This research was performed in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation
(TxDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The contents of this report reflect
the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented
herein. [The contents do not necessarily reflect the official view or policies of FHWA or
TxDOT.
This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.
This report is not intended for construction, bidding, or permit purposes. The principal
investigator of the project was Amir Hessami and Dazhi Sun served as the co-principal
investigator.
The United States Government and the State of Texas do not endorse products or manufacturers.
Trade or manufacturers’ names appear herein solely because they are considered essential to the
object of this report.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................. 1
1.1. Overview ............................................................................................................................. 1
1.2. Getting Started: Initiating a Project .................................................................................... 2
CHAPTER 2. PROJECT SCOPING ........................................................................................... 5
2.1. The Importance of Project Scoping .................................................................................... 6
2.2. The Timeframe for Project Scoping ................................................................................... 6
2.3. Project Scoping Stages ........................................................................................................ 7
2.3.1. Stage A: Identification of Project Needs ...................................................................... 8
2.3.2. Stage B: Preliminary Project Scoping Study ............................................................... 9
2.3.3. Stage C: Finalized Project Scoping Study ................................................................... 9
2.4. Project Scoping Tasks ....................................................................................................... 10
CHAPTER 3. COST ESTIMATION ......................................................................................... 17
3.1. The Importance of Cost Estimates .................................................................................... 17
3.2. Scoping Cost Estimates vs. Detailed Cost Estimates ........................................................ 17
3.3. Meeting the Challenges of Cost Estimation during the Scoping Phase ............................ 18
3.4. Cost Estimate Techniques ................................................................................................. 19
3.5. Cost Estimation Steps ....................................................................................................... 20
3.5.1. Step 1: Determine the Basis of the Estimate .............................................................. 21
3.5.2. Step 2: Prepare the Base Estimate and Allowances ................................................... 21
3.5.3. Step 3: Analyze Risk and Set the Contingency .......................................................... 21
3.5.4. Step 4: Review and Approval .................................................................................... 22
3.5.5. Step 5: Communicate the Estimate to All Interested Parties ...................................... 22
3.6. Contents of the Total Cost Estimate ................................................................................. 22
3.7. Review of Cost Estimates by MPOs ................................................................................. 23
CHAPTER 4. PROJECT TIMELINES .................................................................................... 25
4.1. Definition and Overview of Project Scheduling ............................................................... 25
4.2. The Importance of Scheduling .......................................................................................... 25
4.3. Meeting the Challenges of Scheduling During the Scoping Phase .................................. 26
4.4. Scheduling Techniques ..................................................................................................... 26
4.4.1. Spreadsheets ............................................................................................................... 26
4.4.2. Gantt Charts ............................................................................................................... 26
4.4.3. CPM Schedules .......................................................................................................... 27
4.5. Scheduling Steps: Overview ............................................................................................. 29
4.6. Scheduling Steps: Transportation Agency Perspective .................................................... 29
4.6.1. Project Design ............................................................................................................ 29
4.6.2. Obtaining Environmental Permits .............................................................................. 30
4.6.3. Right-of-way Acquisition and Utility Relocation ...................................................... 31
4.6.4. Advertising and Letting .............................................................................................. 34
4.6.5. Analyzing Scheduling Dependencies ......................................................................... 35
4.7. Scheduling Steps: MPO Review ....................................................................................... 36
4.7.1. Scheduling Expectations Based on Location and Environmental Characteristics ..... 36
4.7.2. Scheduling Expectations Based on Source of Funding .............................................. 37
APPENDIX A: EXAMPLE STAGE A SCOPING DOCUMENT .......................................... 39
APPENDIX B: EXAMPLE STAGE B SCOPING DOCUMENT .......................................... 43
APPENDIX C: STAGE A SCOPING REVIEW CHECKLIST ............................................. 49
APPENDIX D: STAGE B SCOPING REVIEW CHECKLIST .............................................. 50
APPENDIX E: SCOPING COST ESTIMATION TEMPLATE ............................................ 51
List of Tables
Table 1. Cost Estimation Steps ......................................................................................................... 22
Table 2. Sample VDOT Durations for Pre-construction Activities Extracted from VDOT
Templates .............................................................................................................................. 28
Table 3. Design Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to TxDOT’s
“Project Tracker”)................................................................................................................. 30
Table 4. Environmental Clearance Phase Durations Guidelines Based on the Type of
Project (According to TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”) ............................................................ 31
Table 5. Right-of-way Acquisition Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”) ................................................................................................ 31
Table 6. Utility Relocation Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”) ................................................................................................ 32
Table 7. Bidding and Letting Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”) ................................................................................................ 35
List of Figures
Figure 1. Overview of the project-scoping process for projects submitted to MPOs. ....................... 4
Figure 2. Project scoping dimensions. ................................................................................................ 5
Figure 3. The timeframe of scoping within the project development process. .................................. 7
Figure 4. The information defined within the project scope expands and increases in detail
as the project advances through the development process. .................................................... 8
Figure 5. The cost estimate is gradually refined during the course of project development. ........... 18
Figure 6. Sample Gantt chart using the CPM method. ..................................................................... 28
Figure 7. The time frames that can be obtained by using the RUDI tool (source: RUDI
TxDOT Library). .................................................................................................................. 33
Figure 8. RUDI output for R1 and R2, for a typical metropolitan parcel (source: RUDI
TxDOT Library). .................................................................................................................. 33
Figure 9. RUDI output from right-of-way project release to final project utility adjustment
(U3) (source: RUDI TxDOT Library). The points shown by hollow circles on the
Federally Funded graph are interpolated due to a lack of data in the RUDI library. ........... 34
Figure 10. Diagram of timelines associated with pre-construction phases (VDOT). ...................... 36
Figure 11. Scheduling guidelines based on project location and environmental
characteristics (D/FW MPO). ............................................................................................... 37
Figure 12. A typical roadway project development process (D/FW MPO). .................................... 38
1
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION
To obtain state and federal funding for proposed transportation projects in metropolitan areas,
local governments submit project proposals to their Metropolitan Planning Organization
(MPO) during the early stages of project planning. The purpose of this guidebook is to help
local governments enhance the quality and accuracy of their project proposals. This will in
turn facilitate the project review process by MPOs. Improving the accuracy and quality of
project proposals will help to ensure a streamlined approval process, and will ultimately assist
in providing a better transportation network to the public.
This chapter provides an overview of the guidebook and a basic summary of the
recommended process of developing project proposals. More comprehensive
recommendations regarding the development of project scopes, cost estimates, and schedules
are provided in the following chapters.
1.1. Overview
The success of long-range transportation planning is dependent on the accuracy of projects’
scope of work, cost estimates, and schedules. Obtaining this accuracy can be very difficult,
since only limited information is available during the initial project-planning stages. The
development of preliminary project scope, cost, and schedule involves numerous sources of
uncertainty, such as future market prices, users’ needs, supply chains, weather conditions,
design details, and unexpected site characteristics, among others. For project proposals to be
reliable they need to take into account the potential effects of these complex factors.
Additionally, when local agencies submit potential projects to MPOs for consideration in the
region’s transportation plans, they frequently seek federal or state funding to cover part or all
of the costs for the proposed transportation improvements. MPOs may have access to
funding programs from multiple federal and state agencies, such as the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) and state departments of transportation (DOTs). The use of these
funding sources can come with additional requirements and regulations that are not
mandated for locally funded projects. In many cases the additional project requirements of
federal and state funding agencies may be unfamiliar to local governments, and accounting
for these funding requirements may increase the time and cost of project development.
For these reasons, local agencies sometimes submit proposals to their MPO with unrealistic
cost estimates and/or overly optimistic letting dates. If the agencies and the MPO are not
careful when creating and reviewing project proposals, significant negative repercussions
can occur. In the worst-case scenario, the local agency may be surprised by snowballing
costs and run out of funds to pay for its share of the project, leading to delays and
cancellations. Furthermore, if an approved project is not ready for letting during its
scheduled timeline, the MPO may be required to revise the area’s entire Metropolitan
Transportation Plan (MTP) or Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). This can result in
the MPO not meeting its transportation agenda or its air-quality goals. Meanwhile, other
projects that potentially would have been completed on time and within budget may not have
been approved for funding, because they were eclipsed by the over-optimistic project that
was unable to meet its proposed cost and schedule.
2
The research behind this guidebook indicates that MPOs have been vigorously seeking better
methods to analyze the scope, scheduling, and cost estimates of proposed projects so as to
better serve the public interest. Developing transportation proposals for soliciting state and
federal funds is an exhaustive task. Prior to initiating a proposal, local governments need to
assess the return on their investment by considering the amount of resources required for
preparing a high-quality proposal, compared to the amount of external funding that can
potentially be acquired.
Another important initial consideration is the method of delivering the project. Project
planners typically assume the project delivery method is Design-Bid-Build. However,
depending on the type of project and its specific characteristics, alternative project delivery
and financing methods may be more suitable. Some alternative delivery methods that may be
considered are Design-Build, Construction-Manager/General-Contractor, and Public-Private-
Partnership. The applicability of each alternate method depends upon the type of transportation
project, the local agency’s enabling legislation, and powers granted to the local agency by the
state.
After a local government has decided to go ahead with developing a proposal, and has
identified the best project delivery method, the next step is to develop the project’s preliminary
scope, cost, and timeline. This guidebook lays out a framework for the project scoping, cost,
and time estimation process for MPO transportation projects—from the initial concept to a
well-prepared solution that is ready for detailed design work. The target audiences of the
guidebook are local governments, MPOs, and other metropolitan area project sponsors. Other
project stakeholders can also benefit from this guidebook by gaining an increased
understanding of how transportation projects are developed.
1.2. Getting Started: Initiating a Project
Once local governments identify a transportation improvement need, they should investigate
the possibility of state and federal support to implement their project. There are three
important decision-making points for projects to attain this external funding. The first
decision-point is when the proposal is reviewed for inclusion in the MPOs’ Metropolitan
Transportation Plan (MTP). In this guidebook, the process of taking an improvement idea and
transforming it into a proposal that is ready for MTP consideration is called Stage A.
After approval for inclusion in the MTP is obtained and sources of funding are identified, a
more detailed study can be carried out to investigate specific aspects of the project and to
gather extensive information about its implementation and design needs. At this point the
initial scope of work, cost estimate, and schedule can be verified and updated. Using the
expanded information from the detailed project study a second decision-point is reached, when
the MPO again reviews the project for inclusion in its active Transportation Improvement
Program (TIP). In this guidebook, the process of preparing a proposal that is ready for TIP
consideration is called Stage B.
The last major planning step from the local government’s point of view is initiating the design
of the project. As preliminary designs become available, the project’s scope, cost estimate, and
3
timeline should once again be reviewed and verified to determine if the project is ready to
enter the detailed design phase. The decision to enter detailed design can be considered the
conclusion of the project scoping process. In this guidebook, the preparation and verification
of the final scoping/cost/scheduling report is called Stage C.
Figure 1 illustrates an overview of this entire process, including stages A, B, and C. As can be
seen in the figure, the primary tasks carried out during Stage A include the clear identification
of a transportation improvement need and an initial characterization of its feasible solutions.
Estimates of the project’s scope, cost, and scheduling are necessarily tentative at this stage of
development. When moving to Stage B, much more detailed analysis can be carried out. Tasks
at this stage include the specific evaluation of alternative project solutions, incorporating
information about right-of-way, utility requirements, and environmental impacts. During this
stage, initial schematics may be produced, and public feedback about the recommended
solution is obtained. In Stage C, the scoping report is finalized based on preliminary design
work, and all relevant information is reviewed and verified. The final scoping report should be
able to serve as a reliable framework for the detailed design phase of the project.
The following chapters present more detailed information about all aspects of the scoping
process. Chapter 2 describes the purpose of project scoping and provides a detailed
breakdown of scoping tasks throughout Stages A, B, and C. Chapter 3 provides detailed
information about development of cost estimates. Chapter 4 presents detailed discussion
about development of project timelines. The appendixes of this guidebook provide a number
of useful templates that can be used during project preparation, including scoping report
templates, review checklists, and a cost-estimation form.
4
Figure 1. Overview of the project-scoping process for projects submitted to MPOs.
5
CHAPTER 2. PROJECT SCOPING
Project scoping involves taking a general transportation-improvement idea and transforming it
into a well-developed solution that is ready for detailed design work. During project scoping,
the boundaries of the project are defined, the components of the project are identified, key
design parameters are developed, and the required budget of the project is estimated to an
adequate level of detail for planning purposes. A well-defined project scope helps to ensure the
development of reasonably accurate estimates of the project timeline and budget.
The scoping process can be understood as having three mutually supporting axes: the scope
of the work itself, the budget available for the work, and the time allowed for project
completion (Figure 2). All of these factors have to be reasonably accurate and in balance with
each other to create a basis for successful project delivery. Accurately defining the scope of
the work is the primary focus, and the corresponding cost estimate and schedule are
developed based on the scope.
Figure 2. Project scoping dimensions.
At the start of the project scoping process, planners begin with a clearly identified need or goal,
a clearly stated purpose for the project, and a solid justification for its implementation. From
this point, as scoping proceeds, alternative solutions are studied along with evaluations of what
components will be included and excluded from the planned work. All activities necessary to
complete the work are enumerated, along with all related impacts (environmental, traffic, legal,
etc.) that will need to be taken into account for the successful completion of the project.
Planners seek to evaluate the full impacts of various proposed solutions, along with any issues
that might be identified during the subsequent phases of project development (design,
construction, and maintenance). Areas where problems might potentially arise are evaluated in
order to minimize the risk of underestimating the project’s execution activities, costs, and
schedule. As project development progresses, the project scope, schedule, and cost estimate are
periodically updated and become more refined and accurate. A key concern for MPOs is to
determine when these factors have become accurate enough so that they can be reliably used
for funding decisions.
6
2.1. The Importance of Project Scoping
The interrelated factors of project scope, cost estimate, and schedule will serve as a defining
framework for the design and implementation phases of the project. If this underlying
framework is not well-conceived, thorough, and accurate then there is a significant possibility
that unexpected difficulties and complications will arise during later project phases. Inadequate
scoping can and often does result in significant cost increases, completion delays, and even
poor performance/quality in the constructed project as a result of the development constraints
imposed by inaccurate estimates. Furthermore, the changes in budgeting and scheduling that
result from inadequate project scoping can spill over to affect other planned projects, requiring
adjustments in the organization’s entire transportation planning program. The potential
“domino effect” caused by budgeting and scheduling inaccuracies makes project scoping a
critical component of the overall transportation program’s success.
Since the design details of the project have not yet fully coalesced during the scoping phase,
accurately estimating the project cost and schedule can be a significant challenge. Nonetheless,
planners are called upon to make reasonably accurate predictions and provide contingencies so
that a preferred solution can be chosen and project implementation can proceed. The goal of the
scoping process is to define the project alternatives accurately enough to make fair
comparisons among competing alternatives. Risk analysis is a central component of this
process, as planners check carefully to identify potential issues that may arise during project
implementation and ensure that adequate contingencies are provided for things that may not
yet be identified.
Successful scoping is often “invisible” during the completion of a transportation project, but
any flaws in this underlying framework can become very apparent due to the budget overruns
and project delays that can result from inadequate attention to scoping. The investment of
adequate resources for robust scoping work at appropriate times in the project development
process is therefore a proactive approach that will aid tremendously in avoiding unexpected
problems that can jeopardize an entire transportation program.
Adequate scoping contributes to project success by:
Reducing unforeseen project costs for design and construction.
Eliminating or reducing delays in design and construction time.
Improving the predictability of project performance, costs, and scheduling.
Enhancing the project’s success in achieving its social and environmental objectives.
Improving the communication of project plans and outcomes to stakeholders.
2.2. The Timeframe for Project Scoping
Scoping should begin early in the initial planning-phase of project development, and it should
continue to be refined through the preliminary design phase. Often the scoping process is
divided into multiple stages, with broad evaluations made during initial planning and then
7
further refined as the preliminary design work proceeds. When the project moves into its
detailed design phase the scoping framework should be considered definitive and complete
(Figure 3).
Figure 3. The timeframe of scoping within the project development process.
2.3. Project Scoping Stages
As the details of a project come into focus, more accurate estimates of budget and scheduling
become possible. Thus, dividing the scoping process into several stages can help planners to
“zero in” on the best project solution and the most accurate definition of project parameters.
A typical approach is to divide scoping into three stages (A, B, and C), as will be described in
this guidebook.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations typically identify transportation needs and projects for a
time horizon of 20–25 years. Each approved project is placed into the organization’s
Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), and then as the project continues to develop it is
moved to the active 4-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The stages of project
scoping that are recommended in this guidebook are organized to match this trajectory of
MPO projects. Each stage of scoping will end with a “gateway” review, after which the
project will advance to the next level. Stage A efforts are required to ready a project to be
included in the MTP, Stage B efforts are required to ready a project to be included in the TIP,
and Stage C scoping is completed just before the project enters detailed design.
Each subsequent stage is built upon the previous scoping stage, and each gateway review
confirms that the project scope, cost, and schedule have been defined sufficiently for the
project to advance. In this way, the scope of the project is refined sequentially. Following this
approach allows planners to engage in the appropriate types of scoping analysis as the project
develops, and ensures that all of the relevant and available information is reviewed at each
stage. In the later stages, planners may review and confirm findings from previous stages,
while also expanding the analysis to account for newly available information (Figure 4).
8
Figure 4. The information defined within the project scope expands and increases in detail as the
project advances through the development process.
2.3.1. Stage A: Identification of Project Needs
It can be advantageous to initiate the scoping analysis very early in project development. This
is particularly true for metropolitan-area projects, as their parameters tend to be more unique
and complex in comparison with projects in more rural settings. Metropolitan-area
transportation improvements are more likely to have extensive challenges in regard to utility
conflicts, right-of- way acquisition, and similar obstacles. Without adequate attention to the
complex needs and challenges of metropolitan-area projects an idea might appear easy to
implement at first, and planners may be caught off guard as the true obstacles emerge.
Initiating the scoping analysis shortly after the transportation need or idea has been identified
will therefore help to ensure that the conceptualized project is feasible and that no unexpected
surprises are on the horizon.
A well-developed report on the needs of the project is the defining aspect of Stage A. In this
stage of scoping, the proposing agency clarifies the purpose and objectives of the project,
gathers initial data about the transportation problem, and identifies project stakeholders. Since
the information available at this point is limited, the initial cost estimate is typically prepared
using a rough cost-per-mile or similar methods (discussed in Chapter 3). The timeline for the
project at this stage is often based on a comparison with other similar projects that have been
previously completed.
At a minimum, the needs-identification report includes a purpose statement; proposed project
characteristics (e.g., number of lanes involved, types of proposed improvements, and major
structures); the current conditions of the relevant infrastructure; traffic projections; relevant
utility, right-of-way, environmental, and legal considerations (including nonattainment area
status); identified stakeholders for the project; initial cost estimates; initial timelines; and an
identification of concerns that will need further investigation. Appendix A provides a
template for this initial needs-identification report, and Appendix C provides a checklist for
MPOs to review the report. The needs report that is created during Stage A will by necessity
9
have to rely on limited information; it will be updated with more detailed studies as the
project develops. At the end of this stage, the project is developed enough to be submitted for
the MPO’s review for inclusion in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
2.3.2. Stage B: Preliminary Project Scoping Study
Stage B of the scoping process is performed to define the project elements in more detail.
Preliminary design is underway at this stage of development, and additional data is collected
in regard to environmental impacts, drainage issues, right-of-way, and utilities conflicts. This
allows for the development of more precise components of the project’s scope, cost estimates,
and schedules. Environmental clearance may be obtained during this stage, and supporting
documents such as right-of-way maps and property descriptions may be developed. However,
acquisition is not yet initiated during Stage B. Public involvement is at its peak during this
stage and open meetings may be held to solicit feedback from affected stakeholders. In this
stage, alternative solutions are evaluated and a primary candidate plan is selected.
At a minimum, the preliminary scoping report that is developed during this stage includes the
recommended solution, detailed cost estimates and timelines, right-of-way and restriction
maps, utility impact maps and related information, environmental review (activities and
permits that have to be addressed), preliminary schematics, and public meeting minutes.
Appendix B provides a template for this preliminary scoping report, and Appendix D provides
a checklist for MPOs to review the report. Stage B should be completed approximately 4 years
before letting and construction. At the end of this stage, the project is ready to be submitted for
the MPO’s review for inclusion in the 4-year Transportation Improvement Program.
2.3.3. Stage C: Finalized Project Scoping Study
During the last stage of the scoping process the project scope, budget, and schedule are
finalized. This step coincides with the completion of the project’s preliminary design
schematics. At this point in the project development process, there is enough information
available to firmly establish the project parameters and initiate detailed design and
construction. The final scoping report that is created during Stage C will be passed along to the
designers as a guideline for their work.
To prepare for the detailed design stage, the recommended project solution is defined in more
depth. The amount of design work that has been completed at the end of the scoping process
(i.e., the preliminary design) should be around 10% to 30% of the total project, which is
enough to firmly ensure that the parameters defined in the scoping report are feasible. In
addition, the project data collected during Stages A and B is reviewed and updated, right-of-
way and utility conflicts are fully documented, and the environmental and social impacts are
classified and certified. All necessary permits should be identified during this stage. Public
hearings are also documented in the final scoping report as part of the project’s Public
Participation Plan.
At a minimum, the final project scoping report includes cost estimates, project development
timelines, environmental classification and certification, right-of-way and utility maps ready
for acquisition and relocation, preliminary design schematics at about 30% of completion, and
10
public hearing minutes. On many projects, Stage C is completed approximately 2 years before
letting and construction to allow for final design, obtaining plan approval, right of way
acquisition, and utility relocation. At the end of this stage, the project moves into the detailed
design phase and funding is allocated for the implementation of the project.
2.4. Project Scoping Tasks
An effective three-stage project scoping process is set up in such a way that several activities
are repeated during each stage of the procedure, allowing for new information to be added and
previous conclusions to be verified or adjusted. A full suggested breakdown of project scoping
tasks, throughout stages A, B, and C, is outlined in the following sections.
Stage A-1: Preparation
Identify Team Members Based on Project Disciplines: In this task, the local government
agency that is sponsoring the project identifies the nature of the transportation problem and
selects qualified personnel for the scoping team. In cases where the project sponsor does
not have the specialized staff that is needed in a particular area, outsourcing solutions for
that section of the project may be considered. The costs for hiring external consultants
during the scoping phase are the responsibility of the project sponsor. If the same
consultants are used during preliminary engineering, final design, or construction
administration then there may be federal or state funding available; however, appropriate
professional procurement procedures will need to be followed according to the regulations
of the funding agencies. Information about consultant hiring requirements is available from
TxDOT’s Local Government Projects Toolkit
(http://www.txdot.gov/government/processes-procedures/lgp-toolkit.html).
Acquire (or Update) Project Data: Available data related to the project is collected from
local entities, such as traffic planning, pavement management, structures, and engineering
divisions. Important data to obtain in this stage includes traffic flow patterns, accident
rates, average daily traffic, pavement conditions, bridges-structures condition, right-of-
way information, utilities information, the most recent surveys of the area, level-of-service
analysis, maps, hydraulic studies, maintenance works, flood history, local agency
comments on potential solutions, whether or not the project is located in an air-quality
attainment area, and the identification of key stakeholders. In Stage A, the available data is
often limited, but spending adequate time at this stage to collect as much information as
possible can save significant effort in the future. During subsequent scoping stages this
data will likely be updated or expanded.
Stage A-2: Define the Current Situation
Conduct a Site Visit: The scoping team conducts an on-site field inspection of the
transportation area to gain a better understanding of the problem. Prior to the site visit,
aerial photos and maps can give meaningful insight toward the proposed solutions.
However, a direct site visit, aerial photos, and maps cannot be substituted interchangeably.
It is best to incorporate all of these information sources into the situational evaluation.
11
Collect On-site Data: The data collection is based on endpoints, geometric data, bridges
(if any), traffic control devices, right-of-way obstacles, and transportation limitations and
deficiencies.
Develop Projected Traffic Data (if applicable): Obtaining information about projected
traffic loads and travel demand is important for justifying capacity improvement and
pavement designs, particularly when making improvements on the State or National
Highway System.
Elicit Public Input: As part of the Public Participation Plan, the project manager holds a
meeting with federal and local entities first, and then with members of the public, in order
to collect concerns that those agencies or members of the general public might have
regarding the project. This process can begin in Stage A and will continue in more detail in
later stages.
Stage A-3: Define the Project Need and Develop the Initial Scope
Create a Purpose and Need Statement: After the data-collection and stakeholder input,
the information gathered is transformed into a “Purpose and Need Statement” where the
problems are well-explained and described. This document is intended to justify the
spending of public funds. Information on writing a Purpose and Need Statement is
available from TxDOT’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Project
Development Toolkit (http://www.txdot.gov/inside-
txdot/division/environmental/compliance-toolkits/nepa.html#pisd).
Analyze Potential Project Conflicts: During the site visit the scoping team identifies
potential right-of-way, utilities, and environmental conflicts that may pose a challenge for
project implementation. In this task, any major challenges that could affect the project cost
and project development time are identified. This is just a preliminary evaluation of issues
that will likely need to be investigated in greater detail at later stages.
Prepare the Initial Project Scope: With the information collected up to this point, the
scoping team is able to draw a broad conclusion about the project’s needs and to consider a
proposed best-solution. This allows the team to preliminarily convey a scope of work that
will need to be accomplished to solve the transportation problem. It is important to
document this analysis in the first section of the Stage A scoping report. Appendix A
contains an example scoping report template that can be filled out based on the outcomes of
tasks A3 and A4.
Stage A-4: Prepare the Initial Cost Estimate and Project Timeline
Prepare the Preliminary Cost Estimate: Once the initial scope of work is defined, a
preliminary cost estimate can be prepared. In the earliest stages of project development
there will be a significant amount of uncertainty in the project description, so the cost
estimate should contain a large contingency component. This contingency can be reduced
in later stages and replaced by a more detailed cost analysis as more project details become
12
available. Detailed information about developing cost estimates, and the appropriate
estimation techniques to use at different stages of project development, is given in Chapter
3 of this guidebook.
Prepare the Project Timeline: The initial scope of work also makes it possible to prepare a
preliminary project timeline. It is very important to accurately define all activities that have
been identified as necessary to deliver the project, and to sequence these activities in their
necessary logical order so as to avoid unexpected delays. As is the case with the
preliminary cost estimate, the preliminary timeline that is prepared during early planning
stages will include a lot of uncertainty, and therefore a significant amount of scheduling
contingency should be incorporated into the timeline. The timeline’s contingencies will be
replaced by more precise analyses as project development proceeds. Detailed information
about developing project timelines, and the appropriate scheduling approach to use at
different stages of project development, is given in Chapter 4 of this guidebook.
Stage A-5: Submit the Project for Inclusion in the MTP
Submit the Project to the MPO: The Stage A scoping report developed during tasks A3
and A4 (an example report is given in Appendix A) is used as part of a project
proposal/application submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Organization. This is
typically done in response to a Call for Projects by the MPO. Prior to submitting the
proposed project, the local agency may want to meet with the MPO and other entities to
identify potential sources of funding for various project development activities. This will
allow the proposing agency to clearly identify the potential sources of funding as part of
the project proposal. The MPO will review all of the project proposals that are received
and then select projects to include in its MTP (an example of an MPO project review
checklist is given in Appendix C).
Stage B-1: Update Data Collection and Prepare for Stage B
Identify Team Members and Update Project Data: In this task, the items from Stage A1
are repeated. The composition of the scoping team should be verified or adjusted, and
relevant project data should be gathered or updated to provide the basis for a more
comprehensive study.
Stage B-2: Develop Alternative Project Solutions
Identify Relevant Social and Economic Resources: The team should collect information
about the project area’s surroundings such as archaeological or historic sites,
community character, aesthetics, agricultural lands, water conservation sites,
recreational sites, and hazardous sites. This data can be useful in selecting the best
project solution and minimizing adverse environmental impacts.
Examine Potential Alternatives: Formally developing several alternative project
solutions and comparing them against one another can help the planners ensure that
they identify the best available solution to resolve the identified transportation need. For
13
example, upgrading the current facility along its current alignment or building along a
new alignment may be considered as potential alternatives.
Stage B-3: Analyze Right-of-way Concerns
Collect Right-of-way Maps: In this task, the scoping team is encouraged to collect all
available right-of-way maps that may be relevant to the project. Sources may include
County property tax records, the local agency’s own records, and TxDOT property
ownership records. These maps can be included as attachments in the scoping report.
Identify Restrictions and Interests: Any known restrictions or interests on real property
may be drawn on an overlay map where the areas of potential conflict are highlighted.
This analysis should be carried out for each alternative project solution. These conflict
maps can be included as attachments in the scoping report.
Stage B-4: Assess Utility Needs
Collect Utility Information: The scoping team is encouraged to contact utility owners
(water, sewer, electrical, telecommunications, and others) to identify potential conflicts
between the project implementation and utility services.
Identify Utility Conflicts: Possible relocations for utilities affected by each alternative
project solution should be identified using alignment maps. The utility relocation maps
should be prepared and included as attachments in the scoping report.
Stage B-5: Develop the Environmental Analysis
Analyze Environmental Impacts: The scoping team identifies and documents the
environmental and social impacts for each alternative project solution. The team members
can benefit from contacting local and federal agencies to coordinate with them about the
permits that the project may need. This task initiates the process for meeting National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. The scoping team can take advantage of
TxDOT’s “NEPA and Project Development Toolkit” throughout this process to help ensure
that all requirements are met (http://www.txdot.gov/inside-
txdot/division/environmental/compliance- toolkits/nepa.html).
Document Environmental Study Findings: Environmental clearance requirements for
transportation projects are classified into three categories based on the severity of the
project’s environmental impacts. Each category has a different documentation requirement.
When it is known that the implementation of a project will have a significant effect on the
environment, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared. For projects in which
the environmental impact is uncertain, an Environmental Assessment (EA) is carried out.
When it is known that implementing the project will not have a significant environmental
impact, Categorical Exclusions (CE) are issued. Depending on how the project is
categorized, it may be necessary to create further documentation, to obtain project
14
certification, or to implement environmental mitigation strategies. An environmental
review study should be included as an attachment in the project’s scoping report.
Stage B-6: Prepare Preliminary Designs/Drawings
Develop Initial Design Plans/Schematics: During this stage of the project development,
the team should begin to define (generally within 10% to 30 % of completion) the type of
roadway or other transportation facility, the project’s dimensions, the schematic layout,
alignment elements, sectional elements, drainage, ADA requirements (sidewalks, ramps),
and any other project elements that are significant for cost estimation. Major structures
and possible bridge upgrades should be identified if needed. Preliminary design
plans/schematics should be included as an attachment in the scoping report.
Define Special Considerations during the Construction Phase: This task involves the
identification in advance of special considerations during construction that may affect cost
estimates and timelines. Such considerations may include vehicular access limitations,
special design or pavement reinforcement requirements, temporary traffic control, or
availability of materials and skilled labor in the project location.
Stage B-7: Update the Cost Estimate and the Project Timeline
Use the Information Obtained in Stage B to Refine Cost and Scheduling Estimates: In this
task, the items from Stage A4 are repeated, making use of the more detailed information
that has been collected during Stage B. The initial cost estimates and timeline can be
greatly enhanced at this point, with much of the uncertainty and contingency replaced by
more detailed analyses.
Stage B-8: Evaluate Alternative Solutions
Prepare an Evaluation Matrix: It is recommended that the team develop a matrix to
compare the data on alternative project solutions. This matrix can be included as an
attachment in the scoping report.
Recommend a Preferred Alternative: Based on the scoping team’s evaluation of costs and
benefits (including social and environmental costs and benefits), a candidate project
solution is selected from the available alternatives. The basis for this selection should be
fully thought out and documented in the scoping report.
Stage B-9: Conduct Public Meetings or Hearings
Meet with Local Entities: The scoping team should meet with local organizations and
officials to present the alternative project solutions that were under consideration and to
explain the reasoning behind their recommended solution. Meeting minutes and a
summary of feedback from organizations and officials can be included as an attachment in
the scoping report.
15
Meet with the General Public: As part of the project’s Public Participation Plan, the scoping
team should meet with public stakeholders, present the team’s recommendation, and invite
public comment. Depending upon the type of environmental clearance required for the
project, public hearings that comply with NEPA requirements may be necessary. Meeting
minutes and a summary of feedback from the general public can be included as an
attachment in the scoping report.
Stage B-10: Submit the Project for Inclusion in the TIP
Submit the Project to the MPO for Review: Appropriate data from the expanded Stage B
scoping effort will become part of the project’s application for inclusion in the MPO’s
active Transportation Improvement Program (an example Stage B report is given in
Appendix B). The MPO will review all projects submitted and select projects to include in
its TIP (an example of a Stage B project review checklist for MPOs is given in Appendix
D). If the project is awarded federal or state funding along with its incorporation into the
TIP, then the local government will need to enter into a formal funding agreement with the
relevant agencies.
Stage C-1: Update All Relevant Scoping Information
Verify the Scoping Analysis: All relevant scoping information should be reviewed and
verified in preparation for the final design phase. Some items may need to be changed or
expanded in light of new information and as a result of more detailed design studies. The
following tasks should be repeated (in this order):
– A1: Confirm the project information in the Purpose and Need Statement, and verify that the
project description and limits match the data that is given in the TIP.
– B3: Finalize the right-of-way impact analysis. Include updated right-of-way property
interests and restrictions maps in the final scoping report.
– B4: Finalize the utility impact analysis. Include updated utility conflicts maps and
relocation maps in the final scoping report.
– B5: Finalize the environmental impact analysis. Include updated environmental review
documents in the final scoping report.
– B9: Conduct additional public meetings. Include meeting minutes and a summary of
public feedback in the project report and in relevant environmental documents.
– A4: Update the cost estimate and project timeline based on the current project
information. Include a detailed breakdown of the cost and time estimates.
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Stage C-2: Submit to Relevant Agency and Obtain Approval for the Project to Enter
the Detailed Design Phase
Demonstrate Compliance: Submit necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance
with all applicable state and federal requirements based on the source of funds and the
specific provisions of the project’s funding agreements. Prior to commencing final design,
the local agency will need to demonstrate to the funding agencies that it has advanced the
project to approximately 30% of completion. For large projects, this includes completion of
schematic designs, obtaining environmental clearance, and identifying necessary right-of-
way acquisitions and utility adjustments. By carrying out a robust scope development,
conducting an adequate preliminary design process, and preparing detailed documentation,
the local agency will enable the project designers to proceed with their detailed work on a
solid foundation. The absence of any drastic, unexpected changes to the project’s scope,
cost, and schedule during the later implementation phases will be a testimony to the success
of the scope development process.
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CHAPTER 3. COST ESTIMATION
Cost estimation is an essential factor to the success of transportation projects. Accurate cost
estimates enhance transportation plans by better supporting feasibility studies, prioritization,
and annual budget allocations for proposed projects. This chapter outlines a process for
developing cost estimates and discusses several aspects that planners should consider when
creating estimates. In the last section of the chapter, an approach that MPOs can use to review
cost estimates is presented.
3.1. The Importance of Cost Estimates
Metropolitan-area projects will benefit from a consistent and systematic approach to generating
reliable budget estimates even at the early stages of project development. Inaccurate or
unreliable cost estimates can have a “domino effect,” resulting not only in delays and overruns
for one specific project, but also setbacks and budget revisions for the entire transportation
program. Incorrectly estimating project costs may result in planners being misled about the
feasibility of implementing a particular project, or prioritizing projects in a less effective
fashion. In the worst-case scenario, inaccurate cost estimates can even lead to quality problems
in the final delivered result, or an inability to complete a project in the way that it was planned.
3.2. Scoping Cost Estimates vs. Detailed Cost Estimates
There are two basic categories of cost estimates: scoping and detailed. Scoping estimates are
made during the early stages of the project development, before any detailed design work has
been carried out. Detailed estimates, in contrast, are made later in the project development
process and have the benefit of more precise information. While these two types of cost
estimates rely on different techniques, they are both equally important. Reliable scoping
estimates are critical for planning purposes because they provide the information needed to
assess project feasibility and to allow for an effective allocation of limited funds. Detailed
estimates are prepared and updated as soon as possible when the design work is initiated, in
order to confirm the scoping estimates and make them more precise.
Scoping cost estimates are used by planners to establish the project budget, to compare
different alternative solutions for completing a project, and to compare and prioritize among
different projects within the overall transportation program. These cost estimates are
developed concurrently with efforts to define the scope of the project work (what is to be
included and excluded), as described in Chapter 2. Due to the nature of developing projects at
this early stage, there is often a significant amount of uncertainty about the extent of the
required work that will be needed to complete a project. Various details of the project
components and their exact design are not yet fully developed. Therefore, contingency and
risk analysis—estimating the breadth of the possible cost-range—is a crucial aspect of
creating cost estimates during the scoping stage.
One way to think about scoping estimates and detailed estimates is to consider three
components of the cost. The base estimate includes costs that are certain and can be readily
calculated. The allowances are for variable-costs items that are a known part of the project but
cannot be calculated precisely until further design work is completed. The contingency is an
18
amount reserved for unknown or potential costs that may or may not arise during the project
implementation. At the start of the project the allowances and contingency will cover a large
range, because there are still many unknowns in regard to the implementation. As the project
proceeds from scoping to detailed design the allowances portion of the cost estimate will shrink
and then eventually disappear, as the costs of variable items become precisely defined and are
incorporated into the base cost. The contingency portion of the cost will also shrink, but will
never entirely disappear (Figure 5). The overall result of this process is that the range of error in
the cost estimate grows smaller as project development moves from the initial scoping stage
toward the detailed design stage.
Figure 5. The cost estimate is gradually refined during the course of project development.
3.3. Meeting the Challenges of Cost Estimation during the Scoping Phase
During the scoping phase, the lack of details about how various project components will be
implemented creates significant challenges for cost estimation. Nonetheless, it is extremely
important that these estimates be reasonably accurate, and consistently performed, so that
planners can compare the feasibility of various projects and determine how best to allocate
project funding. Using a consistent risk-analysis approach to define adequate contingencies
and potential cost ranges can help tremendously in avoiding any unpleasant surprises. Whereas
traditional approaches to cost estimation often provide a single ballpark figure, the technique
described here of evaluating base estimates, allowances, and contingencies can inform
planners about the variability that is present in a cost estimate. This allows for more informed
and nuanced decision-making. To identify the range of an estimate, planners can rely on
statistical interpretations of the available data, and/or the accumulated experience of
transportation professionals. Local governments need to remember that if their project will be
partially supported with state or federal funds, the requirements associated with that funding
may mean that construction costs will be higher than if only local funds were used.
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3.4. Cost Estimate Techniques
A variety of different approaches and sources of data can be used to prepare cost estimates.
In the very early scoping stages, the estimate may be based solely on historical data or
expert opinion. For example, the cost-per-mile data for previous roadway projects that are
similar in nature is often collected and statistically amalgamated. For bridge projects,
square-foot cost averages are frequently used. These estimates may sometimes be tailored to
a particular proposed project by considering the variable cost of utility work, environmental
mitigation work, traffic impact management, and so forth. Regardless of the source of data,
there can be great benefit at this stage in calculating the range of variability as well as just a
single, approximate figure.
As the project design progresses and more information becomes available, cost estimates
can shift to focus on quantities of items and their per-unit costs. These techniques are more
suited to detailed cost estimates, but at times they may be incorporated into scoping
estimates as well. Regardless of the technique used, it is always important to remember to
factor in the effects of inflation and market conditions.
The following list describes some of the most common cost-estimation techniques and
their applications:
(a) Cost-per-parameter using similar projects. This technique can provide a fairly quick cost
assessment at the earliest project stages, using similar projects as a basis for calculating the
total cost. Historical data is collected for very similar projects, and then these costs are adjusted
according to the new location, current market prices, and any other differences that are noted in
relation to the new project. In this approach, the adjustments made to translate the costs of
previous projects to the context of the new project are documented and applied consistently to
decrease subjectivity of the estimates. In transportation projects, this method is widely known
as “cost-per-mile technique.” Other parameters may be used, however, such as cost-per-square-
foot, cost-per-road-intersection, etc.
(b) Cost-per-parameter using typical sections. This technique is similar to the previous one,
except that the costs are broken down into different types of roadway sections. For example,
sections with sidewalks or with bridges are evaluated separately from other portions of the
roadway that lack these features. This allows for a more precise estimate based on the unique
characteristics of the current project. Average historical data is gathered for typical sections,
and then these costs are applied based on how much of each section type is present in the
current project.
(c) Analogous project with scoping parameters. Once the project moves into the later stages
of the scoping process and its parameters are more clearly defined, it becomes possible to
make extrapolations from past projects in a more precise fashion. Planners can identify a past
project that has closely similar parameters in terms of scope, complexity, scheduling, and so
forth, and use this past project as a basis for estimating the cost of the new one. The accuracy
of such estimates is generally greater compared to estimates that rely on historical averages
of broadly similar projects. When using this technique, it may still be necessary to make
adjustments to fit the current project definitions.
20
(d) Component costs. Increased project definition allows for a component-by-component
analysis of materials, equipment, labor, productivity, overhead, and contractor profit
margins, again calculated based on historical data. This is a relatively complex estimation
method and while it can be used during scoping, it is more often used during the detailed
design and letting phase of the project.
(e) Historical-bids based. Rather than developing their own estimates of component costs,
planners can track the historical trajectory of contractors’ previous bids for the major items of
the work. Bidding history provides an easily accessible source of data and is more inclusive
than simply relying on the final budgets of previous projects. Due to its convenience and
effectiveness, this technique is very commonly used. When taking this approach, it is important
to have adequate data (i.e., bids drawn from multiple projects) and to obtain a frequently
updated sample of bids over time. This technique is also more appropriate for detailed design
estimates, but it may sometimes be used during the scoping phase. TxDOT maintains a list of
average bid prices that is updated periodically (http://www.txdot.gov/business/letting-
bids/average-low-bid- unit-prices.html).
(f) Historical percentages. This method can be used for components of the project that are not
fully defined at the early stages of project development. It draws on historical data from
similar projects that have a different size/scope, and then estimates the cost of a component of
the new project as a percentage of the total cost of the previous project. The resulting
estimates will need to be adjusted in accordance with current market prices.
(g) Combined methods. Sometimes, obtaining the best total estimate for a project means
calculating the cost of its different components using different techniques. For example, the
cost of labor for a project might be easy to analyze based on available data, but the cost of
materials might need to be analyzed based on historical percentages. When different methods
are used, it is vital that the planners clearly define and document the procedures and the
reasons that they were chosen. A combined approach is more common on complex projects,
and it may require the assistance of multiple planners; therefore, clear communication is vital
to ensure that commensurate practices are used and that each component’s relation to the
others is understood when developing the combined/total estimate. The contingency included
for such projects may need to be larger than normal to account for the variances in the
estimation process.
3.5. Cost Estimation Steps
To streamline the process of making cost estimates, and to help ensure that this process is
consistently applied, the following five-step procedure is recommended. This approach is
derived from the cost-estimation workflow described in the National Cooperative Highway
Research Program (NCHRP) Report 574: Guidance for Cost Estimation and Management for
Highway Projects During Planning, Programming, and Preconstruction. It has been modified
and tailored to meet the specific needs of metropolitan-area transportation projects. The steps
of the process are described in detail in the following paragraphs, and then summarized in
Table 1.
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3.5.1. Step 1: Determine the Basis of the Estimate
To develop an accurate overall cost estimate, the foundation should first be laid by clearly
defining the scope and stages of the work, the site characteristics, and any other project
determinants that may affect cost. In this step, these project characteristics are carefully
elaborated and documented, to whatever extent is possible at the current point in the project
development process. All assumptions that were made about the project development should
be identified.
As part of this step the planners may identify alternative development paths. The cost estimate
of the project may be defined for the main development alternative, with other alternatives
evaluated in terms of how their differences would affect the main cost estimate. If at all
possible, it is recommended that the planners visit the future construction site or project
corridor in person during this step to improve their knowledge of the project’s characteristics.
3.5.2. Step 2: Prepare the Base Estimate and Allowances
Once all the information about the project is collected, the planners review this material and
make their estimate for the known project components, including both the base estimate and the
allowances. An important part of this step is to define what estimating technique is most
appropriate for the project by considering the current development phase, its complexity, and
the level of details available. Various techniques can be used for the calculation of these
estimates, as was described in the previous section. Local governments often use historical cost
information for similar projects that they have developed or that adjacent local entities have
developed. They may also request assistance from a local office of their state DOT. An
example of historical unit-cost information from recent TxDOT projects is available on the
txdot.gov website (http://www.txdot.gov/business/letting-bids/average-low-bid-prices.html).
The planners may also identify factors that would help to better develop the cost estimate as the
project progresses, so that future cost estimates in the later stages can become more precise. As
part of this step the planners should carefully document all of the inputs, outputs, tools, and
techniques that were used, and any assumptions that were made in creating the estimate. MPOs
may have an internal policy regarding whether allowances are categorized as part of the base
estimate or (less frequently) as part of the contingency reserve.
3.5.3. Step 3: Analyze Risk and Set the Contingency
Risk and contingency analysis is crucial for developing more useful cost estimates. Through
this process, project planners gain an understanding not only of the median estimate of cost and
timing, but also of the potential impact of undeterminable factors and the range of uncertainty
in the estimate. The risk analysis is based on the uncertainty in the estimation process and
elements in the project implementation that cannot be clearly defined or predicted in advance
(e.g., characteristics and dimensions of work components, market dynamics, supply
disruptions, or the weather). The project contingency is an estimate of the potential costs
associated with these risks. As the project development and implementation continues through
time, the amount of its contingencies will gradually decrease, reflecting the smaller number of
remaining uncertainties.
22
In this step, the planner documents the areas of uncertainty remaining in the project scope,
and determines the appropriate risk-analysis method. The cost contingency is then calculated
based on these remaining unknowns. Once the contingency is calculated it is added to the
base-cost estimate.
3.5.4. Step 4: Review and Approval
The planner’s calculations should be carefully reviewed by a second party to detect any
possible errors or omissions. This review should be conducted before the cost estimate is used
for any decision-making purposes, and before it is released to the public. The intensity of the
cost estimate review can vary depending on the project complexity and the project type. In
most cases, though, it should include at a minimum a scrutiny of the estimate’s assumptions,
verification of the cost-data and completeness of the estimate basis, and comparison with
previous estimates for similar projects. Local governments may benefit from requesting a
review conference with district-level personnel from TxDOT to discuss if the estimate seems
reasonable.
3.5.5. Step 5: Communicate the Estimate to All Interested Parties
In this final step, the planners should determine the most clear and effective means for
conveying the project estimate and its underlying assumptions to all interested parties.
Procedures should be put into place to ensure that there is a common understanding of
anticipated project costs throughout the project development process.
Table 1. Cost Estimation Steps
Step Inputs Outputs
(1) Determine the basis of
the estimate • Project information • Project estimate file
(2) Prepare the base
estimate and allowances
• Estimate basis
• Estimation technique
• Specific inputs
• Base estimate
(3) Analyze risk and
contingency
• Base estimate
• Project complexity evaluation
• Project risks and contingency
• Total construction estimate
(4) Review and approval • Total construction estimate
• Project estimate file • Updated project estimate file
(5) Communicate estimate
to interested parties • Updated project estimate file • Estimate summary for distribution
3.6. Contents of the Total Cost Estimate
The total cost estimate is considered to be the total amount necessary to deliver the project.
These costs cover a wide range of areas, including engineering, right of way, utilities
relocation, environmental mitigation, and all aspects of construction. For projects that seek to
obtain state or federal funding, an estimated governmental oversight cost should also be
23
included. Unknown costs and costs that might be incurred as a result of potential risks should
be included in the contingency amount. Appendix E presents a template for scoping cost
estimates and describes the typical components of a cost estimate.
3.7. Review of Cost Estimates by MPOs
Once an MPO receives a project proposal, it evaluates it to determine if the minimum required
information is included and to define the quality of the proposal. A review of the project’s cost
estimates is a vital part of the assessment process as the project is consideration for inclusion
in the MPO’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan or its Transportation Improvement Program.
The MPO reviews the cost estimates to determine if they are accurate and if they reasonably
reflect the scope of work.
The most effective manner for MPOs to perform this review is to replicate the planners’
cost- estimation steps. The MPO first reviews the basis of the estimate by determining if the
project proposal accurately identifies the components and scope of the work. A well-
developed and documented scope of work is a solid basis for an estimate. MPOs should also
recognize that in the early stages of developing projects, planners make assumptions in
preparing their cost estimates. These assumptions should be adequately documented to make
the estimate more reliable and to make future changes traceable.
The second step of MPOs’ cost estimate review is to assess the base estimate. In this step, the
important factor is to determine if the estimation technique is appropriate considering the
available level of project detail that is known. The MPOs should replicate the calculation of
the base estimate to identify any potential errors. Finally, the MPO should verify that the
proposal reasonably identifies potential risks, and that an adequate contingency amount is
allocated to cover such risks. All of the relevant assumptions and calculations should be
adequately documented in the project proposal.
There are two relatively quick methods that MPOs can use to determine if an estimate is
reasonable. The first method is based on the “80-20” or “Pareto” principle. This rule indicates
that most effects (80%) are a result of a relatively small number of causes (20%). In
reviewing the cost estimates, MPOs can accordingly prioritize major cost drivers; in other
words, focus on the small number of factors that account for the majority of the project costs.
These factors can be readily identified by arranging the cost estimate breakdown in order of
the most expensive items. Those factors that comprise the majority of the costs should receive
the most attention in the cost estimate review.
The second, related technique that MPOs can use to quickly assess cost estimates is to
compare major cost drivers to similar items in previous projects, considering these cost drivers
as a percentage of the total. For example, if utility relocations account for 15% of the total
estimated costs in a proposal, but in previous similar projects utility relocations only accounted
for 3% of the total costs on average, then this indicates either a unique project requirement or
else a likely problem in the current proposal’s cost estimate.
24
A general summary of steps for MPOs to apply when reviewing cost estimates are as follows:
1. Begin with an overview of the proposed scope before reviewing the details of
the estimate.
2. Assess the basis of the cost estimate and its underlying assumptions. Verify that all
of these assumptions are well documented.
3. Check to see if the estimated items reasonably reflect the scope of work.
4. Determine if the estimation technique is adequate.
5. Review the calculations to identify errors.
6. Review the components of the cost estimate and ensure that it includes all of the
standard elements such as construction, design, right-of-way acquisition, utility
relocations, environmental studies, and contingency.
7. Determine whether or not the overall cost estimate is reasonable by considering the
scope of work and comparing the estimate to similar projects. If the MPO does not have
enough internal staffing resources to adequately evaluate all factors, it may consider
hiring professional engineers or cost estimators to help review the cost estimates in
detail.
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CHAPTER 4. PROJECT TIMELINES
Scheduling is an integral part of any construction project. In the field of construction
management, a schedule is defined to include the full spectrum of a project’s necessary
planning, acquisitions, design, and construction activities. Several aspects of a typical project
schedule for transportation projects include project initiation, preliminary engineering,
environmental assessment, right of way mapping and acquisition, utility engineering and
adjustment, final design, letting (advertising and bidding), contract execution, construction, and
project close-out. The individual durations for each project activity and the logistical ties
between various tasks are used to determine the estimated dates for when specific tasks will
occur.
4.1. Definition and Overview of Project Scheduling
The process of scheduling involves the creation of a timetable of project activities. The goal is
to fit the final work plan of the project to a specific time-scale, which lays out the duration and
order of each item to be carried out. A well thought-out schedule breaks down a project into its
detailed activities, categorizes them into different phases, and determines when to begin work
on each activity.
A well-crafted, accurate schedule can aid in the lengthy process of bringing a project from idea
to completion. After a transportation project need and relevant funding sources are identified,
the project enters into a planning process, which includes preliminary design, environmental
study, right-of-way acquisition, and utilities analysis. Then, the project continues into detailed
design and ultimately into construction, operations, and maintenance. Even without any delays,
the completion of this process can take many years. A well-made schedule not only serves to
keep the project on a stable course throughout this duration, but also allows planners to get a
better understanding of the duration and the requirements of the project before making funding
decisions.
4.2. The Importance of Scheduling
One of the main benefits of devoting time and energy to creating a schedule for a project is the
increased resources it will yield in the future. By way of analogy, completing a construction
project without a schedule is like taking a trip without getting directions; you may arrive at
your destination eventually, but not without a lot of wasted time and money. A reasonably
accurate scheduling estimate for a project’s major items will be highly beneficial for all
project stakeholders.
In addition to potential loss of resources, inadequate scheduling in transportation projects can
spill over to affect other planned projects, requiring adjustments in the region’s entire
transportation planning program. Construction projects in metropolitan areas today typically
take place under a large flux of traffic, thereby causing physical and time-based disturbances
to travelers. Furthermore, the increasing complexity of today’s construction projects creates
ever-greater opportunities for cascading delays and inconveniences caused by lapses in
scheduling. Most importantly, incorrect timeline estimates may also lead to planners
misunderstanding the reasonable time required for implementing a project, or lead them to
26
prioritize projects in a less effective manner. Thus, an accurate project schedule is a critical
component to the overall success of a transportation program.
4.3. Meeting the Challenges of Scheduling During the Scoping Phase
In the early phases of project development, a lack of detailed information poses distinct
challenges to accurate scheduling. Planners will need to rely on historical data and local
expertise, while ensuring that an adequate scheduling contingency is included in the
timeline estimates. Local governments also need to remember that if they seek to obtain
state or federal funding for a project, then the requirements associated with that funding
may increase the time required for project development compared to a similar situation in
which only local funds were used.
There are a variety of scheduling techniques that can be applied during the scoping phase
of project development; several of these techniques will be covered in depth later in this
chapter. Due to the importance of the subject, there are also a variety of software programs
and sources of data that have been developed to assist with evaluating project timelines.
Whatever method is ultimately decided upon, the importance of creating an adequate
timeline and mitigating problems stemming from a lack of clarity in the scoping phase
cannot be overstated.
4.4. Scheduling Techniques
The wide variety in scheduling techniques tends to boil down to spreadsheets, Gantt charts, or
Critical Path Method (CPM) schedules. While three options for scheduling may not seem like
a deep selection pool, there are quite a bewildering array of sub-options available, and many
transportation organizations opt to employ more than one format to handle the diversity of
project types. As an example, for more modest project types, the Texas Department of
Transportation (TxDOT) uses spreadsheets that display significant tasks alongside the
logistical ties between them. The designer inputs the quantities and production rates into the
spreadsheet, and a bar chart is produced. For larger projects, however, TxDOT makes use of a
more rigorously prescribed logic and a production-rate database to create a formal CPM
schedule. These various approaches to project scheduling are described more fully below.
4.4.1. Spreadsheets
In addition to the state of Texas, the departments of transportation for South Carolina
(SCDOT), Nebraska (NDOT), and Kentucky (KDOT) use spreadsheets to estimate their
project development timelines. SCDOT and NDOT rely on spreadsheets for significant work
activities. They apply an average production rate, and add up the required working days while
taking into consideration special project components. KDOT relies on spreadsheet templates
for only six project types, while using other approaches for more complex projects.
4.4.2. Gantt Charts
A Gantt chart bears similarity to a common bar chart, with the only notable difference being
the addition of start and finish dates for project activities. The usage of Gantt charts is
generally reserved for modest enterprises where activities take place in chronological order.
Overlapping activities can be considered, but it is more common for Gantt charts to focus only
27
on major work items. The activity durations of each of these items are calculated based on
average production rates. The state transportation departments of Idaho and West Virginia
frequently use these specialized bar charts to display a construction project’s timeline.
4.4.3. CPM Schedules
The CPM schedule is a more advanced approach that includes logistical ties from task to task
and creates a date timeline for multiple individual activities. CPM schedules are generally
reserved for more sizable projects, but they can be used for smaller projects as well. The
primary advantage of CPM schedules is that they can help planners to understand and account
for the detailed interrelationships among activities in today’s complex transportation projects.
Currently, the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware employ CPM schedules for all projects, and
many other State DOTs (including TxDOT) employ this type of scheduling for relatively large
projects.
In a CPM schedule the critical path of activities is defined, and then subordinate activities are
related to this critical path. The critical path is the longest path of interrelated activities. In
other words, it is a chain of interdependent activities that determines the maximum project
duration. Any critical path activity that is delayed will inevitably delay the project completion.
Activities not on the critical path have a certain amount of “float” or “slack”; they can be at
least slightly delayed without affecting the overall project schedule.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has used Microsoft project software to
develop 46 templates based on CPM methods. These schedule templates are selected
according to the information entered by the manager in charge of project scheduling. For the
majority of project types, schedule templates are categorized into separate Gantt charts with
critical paths to emphasize the importance of activities. As an example, Table 2 summarizes
the durations associated with two of these project types as indicated in their appropriate Gantt
charts. These durations are categorized into scoping, preliminary design, detail design, final
design, right of way acquisition, and advertising. The California Department of Transportation
similarly uses a combination of CPM methods, Gantt charts, and spreadsheets in their timeline
development, which is organized through the Primavera software platform. Figure 6 displays a
sample Gantt Chart, in which critical activities are highlighted in red using the CPM method.
28
Table 2. Sample VDOT Durations for Pre-construction Activities Extracted from VDOT
Templates
Tier Type Scoping PD* DD* FD* & RW* Advertise
Tier 1 Roadwork w/o RW or Bridge (PE only)
178
197
61
-
-
Roadwork with RW (PE only)
237
221 181
-
-
Roadwork with RW & Bridge (PE only)
237
221 181
-
-
Roadwork with RW & Bridge
237
241 180
296
78
Roadwork with RW
237
221 180
296
89
Tier 2 Road no bridge (PE only)
282
226 206
-
-
Road with RW and bridge (PE only)
227
271 206
-
-
Road with bridge, no RW
282
236 173
171
70
Road with no RW, no bridge
272
226 174
151
100
Road no bridge
287
258 174
292
91
Road with RW, bridge
287
258 173
296
90
* PD = preliminary design; DD = detailed design; FD = final design; RW = right-of-way acquisition
Figure 6. Sample Gantt chart using the CPM method.
29
4.5. Scheduling Steps: Overview
When creating a schedule there is usually a great deal of flexibility in how the project is
analyzed and layered. However, a consistent approach can be useful to streamline the process
and assist in comparability among different project proposals. The Virginia Department of
Transportation has created a set of eight standard steps that are applicable for creating most
project timelines. These steps include (a) defining activities, (b) estimating activity durations,
(c) defining activity relationships, (d) calculating the overall project duration, (e) establishing
activity time intervals, (f) identifying critical activities, (g) publishing a working schedule, and
(h) recording assumptions. This approach may assist local agencies and MPOs in developing
and reviewing project timelines during the pre-construction phases of project development.
The following sections will demonstrate how this approach to establish project timelines can
be implemented. For the sake of simplicity, this guidebook will focus on creating the
timeline for project activities that take place during the scoping stages, including
environmental analysis, preliminary design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocations, and
advertising and letting. The analysis of the timeline development will be presented first from
the perspective of the transportation agency that is creating the proposal, and then from the
perspective of the MPO that is reviewing the proposal.
4.6. Scheduling Steps: Transportation Agency Perspective
In this section the process of creating a project timeline is addressed. The primary intended
audience for this section is local government agencies that are preparing project proposals to
be submitted to MPOs for state and federal funding consideration. Specific project activities
are discussed in detail below, and typical timeline data and scheduling considerations are
presented. Most of the timeline data is derived from TxDOT’s “Project Tracker” database,
which provides historical information for the duration of ongoing transportation project
activities. The authors of this guidebook downloaded and amalgamated timeline data for
more than 13,000 transportation projects from Project Tracker to provide the basis for this
analysis. This information is organized by type of transportation project—farm-to-market
roads/highways (FM), state highways (SH), federal highways (US), hike & bike trails,
intersection improvements, and county roads. The three highway types are further subdivided
into new-road projects vs. resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, and reconstruction (4R)
projects.
4.6.1. Project Design
The plan-development of a construction project takes place in two phases: preliminary design
and detailed design. Preliminary design can be started very early in the project development
process. The Project Tracker data for overall design phase duration is presented in Table 3. As
can be seen in the table, there is a wide range of design durations depending on the project
type. According to VDOT, the preliminary design phase may have a time span of anywhere
from 1 to 18 months, depending on the complexity and size of the project. In contrast, detailed
design typically lasts only 1 to 12 months. Thus, it is vital to provide adequate time in the
project schedule to complete the preliminary design work.
30
Table 3. Design Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to TxDOT’s
“Project Tracker”) Design Phase Duration (Calendar Days)
Project Type Mean Median Min Max
FM New 599 282 64 3503
4R 259 151 21 3959
SH New 719 510 72 4829
4R 304 146 36 5529
US New 920 533 55 4001
4R 289 157 4 4550
Hike and Bike Trail 653 425 96 2105
Intersection Improvement 348 267 1 4937
County Road 521 246 31 3312
4.6.2. Obtaining Environmental Permits
The acquisition of environmental permits is a significant process that can often take years to
complete. It is best to start this process as early as possible in the project development process.
The project team should consult with relevant government agencies as well as with members of
the local community to identify any significant environmental or cultural/historical
repercussions of the proposed transportation project. As discussed in Chapter 2 of this
guidebook, all projects that receive federal funding must be classified according to their
environmental impacts. Depending on the project classification the planners may be obliged to
obtain a Categorical Exclusion (CE), create an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or
create a general Environmental Assessment (EA). More information on these types of
environmental project classifications can be found on the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA) website https://www.epa.gov/nepa/national-environmental-policy-act-review-process).
TxDOT has an Environmental Scope Development tool that can also assist in determining
which type of environmental document is required for a specific project
(http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/env/toolkit/110-04-frm.pdf).
Predicting the time that is needed to obtain environmental permits can be one of the most
complex parts of transportation project scheduling. There is a very wide range of timing
possibilities depending on the type of permits required. The Project Tracker data for
environmental clearance duration is presented in Table 4. TxDOT’s data for projects with
FHWA funding (when environmental clearance is the responsibility of local agencies)
indicate that Categorical Exclusions usually take 3 to 6 months, Environmental Assessments
usually take 3 to 4 years, and Environmental Impact Statements usually take 5 to 7 years.
This is consistent with data that has been made available from other states, such as the
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in which the expected time needed to obtain
a Categorical Exclusion can range anywhere from 21 to 254 calendar days (1- 9 months).
Obtaining an EA or EIS permit requires significantly longer, with the former taking up to
1064 calendar days (3 years) , and the latter taking up to 1979 calendar days (5-1/2 years).
31
Table 4. Environmental Clearance Phase Durations Guidelines Based on the Type of
Project (According to TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”)
Environmental Clearance Duration (Calendar Days)
Project Type Mean Median Min Max
FM New 506 274 6 3269
4R 265 168 28 3656
SH New 585 385 3 4829
4R 273 150 32 4078
US New 805 437 24 4041
4R 300 171 4 3734
Hike and Bike Trail 443 259 1 1840
Intersection Improvement 346 213 12 4943
County Road 674 214 57 3312
4.6.3. Right-of-way Acquisition and Utility Relocation
The right-of-way (ROW) for project construction is typically acquired through direct
purchase, approval from the land owner, or the use of eminent domain. This task usually
takes place when about 30% of the design work has been completed. For projects with
FHWA funding, environmental clearance must be completed before the right-of-way
acquisition can begin. In addition, all acquisitions and relocations must conform to the
requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies
Act of 1970. If these procedures are not followed accurately then FHWA funds cannot be
used on any future phase of the project.
At the same time that right-of-way acquisition is carried out, existing utilities in the
construction area may need to be relocated. This aspect of transportation projects requires
close coordination among state, city, county, and other forms of local government. The
Project Tracker data for right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation are presented in
Tables 5 and 6 respectively.
Table 5. Right-of-way Acquisition Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”)
ROW Acquisition Phase Duration (Calendar Days)
Project Type Mean Median Min Max
FM New 477 305 6 3013
4R 216 100 1 3066
SH New 449 337 23 1734
4R 345 85 1 4088
US New 530 359 5 3741
4R 220 100 2 4315
Hike and Bike Trail 322 254 7 1287
Intersection Improvement 229 122 10 2130
County Road 577 47 20 3066
32
Table 6. Utility Relocation Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”)
Utility Relocation Phase Duration (Calendar Days)
Project Type Mean Median Min Max
FM New 426 233 5 3013
4R 157 70 1 3066
SH New 511 315 59 4647
4R 216 87 1 4088
US New 538 369 11 3055
4R 183 100 5 4315
Hike and Bike Trail 284 186 7 1287
Intersection Improvement 280 122 10 2548
County Road 553 62 21 3066
In 2003, the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas amalgamated
historical project data to create a software tool called the “Right-of-Way Acquisition and
Utility Adjustment Process Duration Information” system, or RUDI. This is an Excel-based
program that can take into account specific user inputs regarding current project factors, and
offer guidance on the expected duration of the ROW and utility components. Practical
applications of RUDI have demonstrated the tool’s overall effectiveness and accuracy.
Figure 7 presents a schematic description of how RUDI works. Utility adjustment is shown
on the right-hand side of the figure, and ROW acquisition is shown on the left-hand side. The
elements labelled R1, R2, and R3, and U1, U2, and U3, correspond to time intervals in the
process. For example, R1 shows the duration from the ROW project release to the initial
appraisal. R2 shows the duration from the initial appraisal to the possession of the land
parcels. R3 represents the sum of R1+R2. The user can apply RUDI to obtain information
about each of the durations.
As an example of how output is generated in RUDI, Figure 8 presents the data associated with
R1 and R2 for a typical urban roadway project. R1 was expected to take a maximum of 311
calendar days to complete for 50% of the cases (median), while R2 was expected to take a
maximum of 301 calendar days to complete for 50% of the cases. Thus, the median value for
the total time between ROW project release and land acquisition is less than two weeks.
Similarly, Figure 9 shows a comparison of the U3 value for federally funded projects vs. the
U3 value for non-federally funded projects. As the figure indicates, 80% of the utility
relocations for both types of projects are completed in less than 2000 days (about 5½ years).
33
Figure 7. The time frames that can be obtained by using the RUDI tool (source: RUDI TxDOT
Library).
Figure 8. RUDI output for R1 and R2, for a typical metropolitan parcel (source: RUDI TxDOT
Library).
34
Figure 9. RUDI output from right-of-way project release to final project utility adjustment (U3)
(source: RUDI TxDOT Library). The points shown by hollow circles on the Federally Funded
graph are interpolated due to a lack of data in the RUDI library.
4.6.4. Advertising and Letting
For projects with TxDOT or FHWA funds, once TxDOT approves the local agency’s plans,
specifications, and bid documents, TxDOT will authorize the local agency to advertise for
construction bids. Federal funding requires a project to be advertised for a minimum of 21
calendar days. Upon receipt of bids, the local agency must award the contract to the responsible
contractor with the lowest responsive bid. The local agency must analyze the bids, make a
recommendation, and then request and receive concurrence with their recommendation from
the state DOT. Usually the length of time from the start of advertising to awarding the contract
is about 2 to 3 months. After awarding the contract, it typically takes another 1 to 3 months for
the contractor to submit the required documents and for the local agency and the contractor to
execute the contract. Total duration for all of these activities is about 3 to 6 months. The
Project Tracker data for advertising and letting is presented in Table 7.
35
Table 7. Bidding and Letting Phase Durations Based on the Type of Project (According to
TxDOT’s “Project Tracker”)
Bidding and Letting Phase Duration (Calendar Days)
Project Type Mean Median Min Max
FM New 172 134 35 916
4R 138 136 35 472
SH New 179 161 59 365
4R 142 133 26 1100
US New 192 137 24 1241
4R 139 125 47 836
Hike and Bike Trail 149 143 84 244
Intersection Improvement 119 105 26 637
County Road 139 127 70 256
4.6.5. Analyzing Scheduling Dependencies
When preparing the project timeline it is vital to consider scheduling dependencies; that is,
which activities must be completed before others can begin. Figure 10 demonstrates how one
transportation agency (VDOT) conceptualizes the relationship between the scheduling
considerations described above—starting with environmental permits and continuing through
advertising and letting. In this schematic, the agency assumes that all environmental permits
must be obtained before the start of detailed design, and that preliminary design (30% of the
detailed design) must be completed before the start of ROW acquisition and utilities
relocation. Other planning agencies may have different approaches or be less rigorous in
defining their scheduling dependencies, but careful consideration should always be given to
ensure that the critical path of the project is clearly defined. It is also vital to include adequate
timing contingencies when developing the project schedule, particularly during the early
scoping stages of project development.
36
Figure 10. Diagram of timelines associated with pre-construction phases (VDOT).
4.7. Scheduling Steps: MPO Review
The perspectives of different MPOs may vary somewhat in regard to how they evaluate
scheduling in project proposals. Two general approaches are common, based on (a) the
location and environmental characteristics of the project, or (b) the sources of funding that
are being considered. The following sections address each of these outlooks in turn.
4.7.1. Scheduling Expectations Based on Location and Environmental
Characteristics
Projects submitted to MPOs may be categorized for scheduling review based on where
the project is geographically located, and/or how the project relates the MPO’s
environmental objectives. Some examples include:
Being on-system or off-system. This is to separate projects that are on the State
Highway System from those that are not.
Being an STP-MM project versus a CMAQ project. Under this classification schema,
projects are divided into those that fall under Surface Transportation Program –
Metropolitan Mobility (STP-MM) programs vs. those that are considered Congestion
Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects. Examples of STP-MM projects include
interchanges, roadway widening, bottleneck removal, and the installation of Intelligent
Transportation System infrastructure. Examples of CMAQ projects include park-and-
ride lots, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and rideshare
programs.
37
Requiring right-of-way. Another classification system sometimes used by MPOs is
to distinguish projects requiring ROW acquisition from those that do not.
Figure 11, which is based on data from the Dallas/Fort Worth MPO (officially titled the
North Central Texas Council of Governments), indicates that the major parameters driving
project timelines is the Environmental Assessment and ROW acquisition. There was very
little difference in expected scheduling times for on-system vs. off-system projects.
However, those categorized as STP-MM required significantly longer time periods for
environmental review compared to CMAQ projects. Similarly, those that required ROW
acquisition required much longer durations.
Figure 11. Scheduling guidelines based on project location and environmental characteristics
(D/FW MPO).
4.7.2. Scheduling Expectations Based on Source of Funding
Other MPOs may categorize project proposals based on the source of funding. The primary
division here is between roadway projects vs. mass transit. In this guidebook the emphasis is
on projects supported by FHWA funds, so mass-transit projects are not discussed in detail.
Figure 12 indicates a typical approval processes for roadway projects that fall under the FHWA
banner. As shown in the figure, roadway projects can take anywhere from 8 to more than 17
years from the start of planning to operation, depending on their complexity and other
influencing factors. The major portion of this duration is comprised of environmental studies
and preliminary design. One final issue that should be noted in this figure is that significant
38
litigation or public opposition to a project can as much as double the time to completion.
Project planners would be wise to consider this potentiality, both by including a robust
scheduling contingency in the project timeline and by carefully vetting public opinion during
the early stages of project development.
Figure 12. A typical roadway project development process (D/FW MPO).
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
39
APPENDIX A: EXAMPLE STAGE A SCOPING DOCUMENT
Date:
Report Prepared By:
Project Name / Location:
Project ID:
Limits (from / to) & Length:
Project Sponsor:
Estimated Total Cost:
Proposed Letting Date:
Proposed Major Milestones for the Project:
Desired Funding Sources (federal, state, or local):
NEED AND PURPOSE
Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed):
Project Purpose (goals / outcome to be achieved):
Preliminary Scope of Proposed Improvements:
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
40
Existing and Projected Conditions:
Major Land Use:
Accident History:
Current LOS (for year ):
Current Traffic (ADT or AADT):
Projected LOS (for year ):
Projected Traffic (ADT or AADT):
Other Projects in the Area (recent or under consideration):
Functional Classification:
Major Structural Upgrades Needed:
New Major Structures:
UTILITY COORDINATION
Potential Utilities Affected (if any):
RIGHT-OF-WAY (ROW)
Existing Width:
Required ROW Anticipated: None Yes Undetermined
Easements Anticipated: None Temporary Permanent Utility Other
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS & PERMITS
Anticipated Environmental Document (CE, EIS, EA):
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
41
MS4 Compliance (is the project located in the area of a designated Municipal Separate
Stormwater Sewer System?):
Anticipated Environmental Permits, Variances, Commitments, or Coordination Required:
Additional Environmental Comments and Information:
Major Environmental Stakeholders (agencies):
CONSTRUCTION
Preliminary Construction Schedule:
Issues Potentially Affecting Constructability or Construction Scheduling:
Alternative Financing/Incentives (if any):
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
42
ATTACHMENTS
YES NO
Aerial Photo with Proposed Project Indicated
GIS or PDF Map with Proposed Project Indicated
Preliminary Layout/Sections
Affected Bridges / Structural Inventory Reports
Preliminary Total Cost Estimate
Preliminary Project Development Timeline
Other:
Other:
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
43
APPENDIX B: EXAMPLE STAGE B SCOPING DOCUMENT
Date:
Report Prepared By:
Project Name / Location:
Project ID:
Limits (from / to) & Length:
Project Sponsor:
Estimated Cost Breakdown Proposed Funding Breakdown
Est. Engineering Cost:
Est. Utility Cost:
Est. Right-of-Way Cost:
Est. Environmental Cost:
Est. Construction Cost:
DOT Oversight Cost:
Est. Total Cost:
% Federal:
% State:
% Local:
Proposed Letting Date:
Proposed Construction Completion Date:
Proposed Major Milestones for the Project:
NEED AND PURPOSE
Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed):
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
44
Project Purpose (goals / outcome to be achieved):
Scope of Proposed Improvements:
Description of Alternative Solutions that Were Evaluated (indicate preferred solution):
Existing and Projected Conditions:
Major Land Use:
Accident History:
Current LOS (for year ):
Current Traffic (ADT or AADT):
Projected LOS (for year ):
Projected Traffic (ADT or AADT):
Other Projects in the Area (recent or under consideration):
Functional Classification:
Major Structural Upgrades Needed:
New Major Structures:
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
45
Relevant Studies/Evaluations Performed (if any):
UTILITY COORDINATION
Utility Type Utility Company
Name Crossing or
Parallel? Relocate?
(Yes / No)
Party
Responsible for
Relocation
Has the
Utility Been
Contacted?
RIGHT-OF-WAY (ROW)
Existing Width:
Required ROW Anticipated: None Yes Undetermined
Easements Anticipated: None Temporary Permanent Utility Other
Estimated Number of ROW Parcels to Acquire:
Estimated Number of Residential Relocations:
Estimated Number of Business Relocations:
Estimated Date for Completion of Property Acquisition:
ROW Acquisition to Be Performed By (agency or consultant name):
Relocations to Be Performed By (agency or consultant name):
ROW Acquisition Comments:
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
46
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS & PERMITS
Anticipated Environmental Document (CE, EIS, EA):
Status of Environmental Document Preparation:
MS4 Compliance (is the project located in the area of a designated Municipal Separate
Stormwater Sewer System?):
Permits Needed from Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, Railroad Commission, or
Other Agencies (list agency name, permit type required, and expected time to obtain):
Additional Environmental Comments and Information:
Public Environmental Stakeholders and Their Level of Interest:
PRELIMINARY DESIGN/SCHEMATICS
Current Status of Design: Less than 10% Between 10 % and 30 % More than 30%
Estimated Completion Date for 30% of Design (if not current):
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT
Description of Public-involvement Activities Related to the Project (previous and upcoming):
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
47
CONSTRUCTION
Preliminary Construction Schedule (letting, start of construction, and completion):
Potential Issues Affecting Constructability or Construction Scheduling:
Alternative Financing/Incentives:
Anticipated Special Provisions for Construction Contract:
PROJECT QUESTIONS (BENEFITS & CHALLENGES)
YES NO
Does the project improve a metropolitan area, a National Highway
System principal arterial, or a designated evacuation route?
Does the project include pedestrian and/or bicycle accommodations?
Does the project include a significant Intelligent Transportation
Systems (ITS) component to increase facility efficiency?
Is the project recommended by a regional or local planning study?
Does the project improve a designated Heavy Cargo Route?
Does the project reduce current travel times or trip length?
Does the project avoid negative impacts on air quality?
Does the project increase the value of transportation assets?
Does the project have regional significance?
Does the project meet designated planning goals?
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
48
For All Items Marked Affirmative in the Above List, Please Add a Full Explanation:
ATTACHMENTS
YES NO
Aerial Photo with Proposed Project Indicated
GIS or PDF Map with Proposed Project Indicated
Preliminary Designs/Schematics
Alternative Solutions Evaluation Matrix
Utility Relocation Map
Right-of-way Conflict Maps
Affected Bridges / Structural Inventory Reports
Public Involvement Plan and Documentation
Preliminary Total Cost Estimate
Preliminary Project Development Timeline
Other:
Other:
Other:
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
49
APPENDIX C: STAGE A SCOPING REVIEW CHECKLIST
The following checklist is provided as minimum suggested criteria for MPOs to review project
reports at Stage A. When reviewing projects for inclusion in the MTP, it is at the discretion of
the MPO to modify the checklist to meet local needs.
Project Review Questionnaire – Stage A / MTP YES NO
General
Does the project application provide maps describing the site location and visually
indicating the area of improvement?
Does the project application include a scoping cost estimate?
Does the project application provide an estimate of project timelines, including a work
schedule for all phases of the project development process?
Does the project application define proposed sources and amounts of funding?
Work Breakdown Structure
Is there a consistent breakdown of individual project development steps, who will
perform each, and proposed allocation of funding for each?
Need and Purpose
Do the need and purpose statements adequately describe a transportation problem
and the goals to be accomplished with the project?
Is the scope of work reasonably commensurate with the project complexity and size?
Does the project application describe the existing conditions of the area of
interest, and successfully provide a projection of the design year?
Are the major structures that would need to be upgraded or constructed in order to
implement the project adequately described?
Utility Coordination
Does the project application indicate potentially affected utilities and railroads?
Right-of-way
Does the project application include an overview of right-of-way requirements?
Environmental Impacts & Permits
Does the project application provide information related to permitting requirements and
anticipated environmental clearances (CE, EIS, EA)?
Does the project application provide documentation of any major environmental impact
that will need to be addressed in later project development stages?
Construction
Does the project application propose and justify any alternative financing methods or
use of incentives?
Does the project identify any potential issues that might significantly affect the
construction process or work schedules? Is the risk of these potential issues
adequately reflected in the cost estimate and project timeline?
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
50
APPENDIX D: STAGE B SCOPING REVIEW CHECKLIST
The following items should be regarded as a continuation of the Stage A checklist (Appendix C).
MPOs should use both checklists together when reviewing projects for inclusion in the TIP. It is
at the discretion of the MPO to modify the checklist as needed to meet local needs.
Project Review Questionnaire – Stage B / TIP YES NO
General
Does the project application meet all requirements indicated in the Stage A checklist?
Does the project application provide a detailed cost estimate that supports the scope of
work and is reasonable for the project type?
Does the project application include an breakdown of requested funding sources?
Does the project application specifically identify costs associated with utility impacts,
right-of-way acquisition, environmental permits, engineering, and construction?
Does the project application include a detailed estimate of the proposed project timeline?
Are several alternatives solutions for the transportation problem evaluated and
a preferred alternative identified?
Work Breakdown Structure
Is there a consistent breakdown of project development steps, an indication of who
will perform each step, and a proposed allocation of funding for each step?
Utility Coordination
Does the project application include a description of utility relocations, the entities
responsible for carrying them out, and the related financial responsibilities?
Right-of-way
Does the project describe the proposed right-of-way acquisition process in detail? Does it
discuss railroad coordination and its impact (if applicable)?
Environmental Impacts & Permits
Does the project application consider alternative solutions that avoid or minimize
harm to the environment or to cultural/historical resources? Is the proposed
schedule for obtaining NEPA clearance and permits reasonable?
Preliminary Design/Schematics
Has the preliminary design been adequately developed to accurately define the
project (typically 20%-35% complete)?
Public Involvement
Does the project application describe procedures to properly engage stakeholders?
Project Benefits and Attachments
Does the project application describe specific project benefits (such as evacuation
route improvements, pedestrian/bicycle accommodations, relevance to long-term
planning, etc.)? Does it include the appropriate attachments to support the project
description?
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
51
APPENDIX E: SCOPING COST ESTIMATION TEMPLATE
This cost estimation template is tailored to MPOs’ needs and reporting requirements. The cost
estimation techniques presented here are based on cost-per-parameter methods. Project sponsors
can modify this template according to the specific characteristics of their projects. At the time
when project proposals are reviewed, all cost estimates have to be adjusted for the year of
expenditure. The MPO’s internal policies will determine whether this year-of-expenditure
adjustment is applied by the project sponsors or by the MPO.
Date:
Report Prepared By:
I. COST ESTIMATE SUMMARY
Project Name / Location:
Project ID:
Limits (from / to) & length:
Project Sponsor:
ID Cost Category Estimated Cost
1 Earthwork
2 Structures
3 Subbase and Base Course
4 Surfacing
5 Miscellaneous Items
6 Mobilization
7 Engineering
8 Environmental Studies
9 Right-of-way
10 Utility
11 Contingency
12 Total Project Cost
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
52
II. COST CATEGORY BREAKDOWN
1. Earthwork
X = $
(average length in miles) (cost-per-mile of earthwork)
2. Structures
Structure Type:
X = $
(area in ft2) (cost per ft2)
3. Subbase and Base-course
X = $
(average length in miles) (cost-per-mile of earthwork)
To obtain the average cost-per-mile of earthwork, the volume of earthwork in one mile is
calculated based on the proposed cross section. This category covers excavation and
embankments fo
r
roadways, drainage structures, bridges, and retaining walls.
The category of “structures” covers the cost of bridges, culverts, and other non-roadway
structures. In the scoping stage, the cost of these structures can be calculated based on average
cost per square foot; alternatively it can be given based on the itemized cost of each structure.
Average unit costs for bridges of several different types can be obtained from TxDOT at:
ftp://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdo
t
-info/library/pubs/bus/bridge/uni
t
-costs-12.pdf
The thickness of the subbase and base-course are defined according to the preliminary pavement
section. In cases where project design reports are not yet available, planners may use the
numbers from similar projects. Planners may consider consulting the TxDOT Pavement Manual
at: http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/pdm/pdm.pdf. Table 5-2 of the TxDOT
Pavement Manual provides an initial estimate for subbase and base thickness. Once the
thicknesses for subbase and base are defined, the volumes of work for one mile can be calculated
from the typical cross section. This volume of work can then be used to determine cos
t
-pe
r
-mile.
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
53
4. Surfacing
X = $
(average length in miles) (cost per mile of surfacing)
5. Miscellaneous Items
Item 1 Description:
Item 1 Estimated Cost: $
Item 2 Description:
Item 2 Estimated Cost: $
OR:
List of Items Covered:
X % = $
(total cost of items 1 through 4) (misc. items percentage)
Estimating the cost of pavement is similar to estimating the subbase and base. However, this
calculation is presented in a separate category because the escalation rate of prices in these two
categories follow different patterns. This presentation helps make cost adjustments easier,
particularly in cases of a dramatic change in oil prices, which will greatly affect surfacing costs.
The first step in calculating pavement costs is to define the type and thickness of pavement
layers. This information may be found in the typical cross section. Planners may consider using
the TxDOT Pavement Manual at: http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/pdm/pdm.pdf
The category of miscellaneous items includes any construction costs not covered in the previous
categories (1 through 4). Pavement markings, signals, striping, and erosion control are some of
the items that may be listed here. Each item is described and its estimated cost is reported.
Alternatively, in the early stages of developing a project, the total for miscellaneous items can be
calculated as an additional percentage on top of the total construction costs (items 1 through 4).
However, the items that are assumed to be covered under this percentage cost must be listed. The
percentage should be in the range of 10% to 30% depending on the project’s complexity and its
current stage of development. Using higher percentages for this category may be appropriate
with prope
r
justification.
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
54
6. Mobilization
X % = $
(total cost of items 1 through 5) (mobilization rate)
7. Engineering
X % = $
(total cost of items 1 through 6) (engineering rate)
8. Environmental Studies
X % = $
(total cost of items 1 through 6) (environmental studies rate)
Mobilization is added to construction cost to cover the contractor’s preconstruction work, such as
initial preparation, temporary works, establishing offices, and moving personnel, supplies, or
equipment. During the scoping stages mobilization is best calculated as a percentage of the
estimated construction cost.
The percentage rate for mobilization is calculated based on the amount of work that is covered
under this category. In the early stages of project development, planners may use 10% as an
initial estimate, and then adjust this percentage as more information is obtained.
This category covers the cost of engineering activities that may occur during scoping, detailed
design, or construction. Since some project sponsors outsource environmental studies, the cost
associated with these studies is categorized in a separate section below. Engineering costs can
range from 5% to 20% depending on the complexity of the project.
The category of “environmental studies” includes the cost of all activities related to
environmental and cultural/historical analysis, compliance reviews, and obtaining necessary
permits.
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________
Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________
55
9. Right-of-way
X = $
(total area in acres) (cost per acre)
Residential Relocations (if applicable)
X = $
(number of relocations) (cost per relocation)
Business Relocations (if applicable)
X = $
(number of relocations) (cost per relocation)
10. Utility Relocations
X = $
(length of project in miles) (cost per mile)
11. Contingency
$
12. Estimated Total Project Cost
$
This category covers the costs necessary to acquire the right-of-way, including land costs and
acquisition services.
The costs incurred for utility adjustments are calculated here. An estimate can be made based on
the average cost to relocate utilities for one mile of construction.
The projec
t
’s contingency reserve is estimated
b
ased on identified risk items.
The estimated total project cost is the sum of items 1 through 11.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Report Prepared By: Project Name / Location: Project ID: Limits (from / to) & Length: Project Sponsor: Estimated Total Cost: Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: Desired Funding Sources (federal, state, or local): NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need
  • Example Stage
  • Scoping
  • Date
Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________ Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________ 39 APPENDIX A: EXAMPLE STAGE A SCOPING DOCUMENT Date: Report Prepared By: Project Name / Location: Project ID: Limits (from / to) & Length: Project Sponsor: Estimated Total Cost: Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: Desired Funding Sources (federal, state, or local): NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed):
Construction Cost: DOT Oversight Cost
  • Est
Est. Construction Cost: DOT Oversight Cost:
Total Cost: % Federal: % State: % Local: Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Construction Completion Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need
  • Est
Est. Total Cost: % Federal: % State: % Local: Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Construction Completion Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed):
Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Construction Completion Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed
  • Est
Est. Total Cost: % Federal: % State: % Local: Proposed Letting Date: Proposed Construction Completion Date: Proposed Major Milestones for the Project: NEED AND PURPOSE Project Need (existing conditions / problems to be addressed): Project Name:________________________ Date:_______________ Local Government Agency:______________ Prepared By:_________