STATUS: NCHRP Report 821: Effective Project Scoping Practices to Improve On-Time and On-Budget Delivery of Highway Budgets
is available HERE.
Transportation agencies have significantly improved many aspects of project delivery, yet they continue to be challenged by cost increases and time delays that occur after a project is programmed and funded. Increasing or changing the scope of a project to improve facility performance is a common source of cost increases and schedule delays, as is failure to adequately consider project impacts on utilities, communities, or the environment. While evaluating and accommodating risk are essential and ongoing activities throughout the project development process, the negative impacts that scope growth and related problems can have on a highway project’s cost and schedule can be minimized if these problems are identified and mitigated early in project development. Industrial and commercial building construction sectors have experienced similar problems with construction project scope growth, cost increases, and time delays that occur after a project has been authorized for detailed design and construction. Recent research in these sectors has produced a structured and systematic process to help owners meet project cost and schedule objectives by defining a project to a suitable level of development prior to authorization of detailed design. Statistical evidence indicates that earlier and more detailed scoping efforts can reduce total design and construction cost by as much as 20%, and shorten total design and construction schedules by as much as 39%. Scoping processes, with supporting indices and tools to calibrate the level of scoping effort required to achieve these results, have become standard procedures that many private U.S. corporations use in their capital facilities development efforts. With modifications, these processes and tools may be transferable to the transportation industry. Transportation projects that are programmed before they are sufficiently defined have a greater risk of increased project cost and/or schedule delays. Because transportation funding is constrained, cost overruns on one project can mean that funding for other projects is reduced or even eliminated. These outcomes can have negative repercussions for transportation agency relationships with the public and legislative bodies. Recognizing that project delivery performance can be improved by using more sophisticated scoping and programming processes tailored to the type of project, a number of state departments of transportation (DOTs) have modified their scoping processes with varying degrees of success. A structured approach that provides guidance on the appropriate level of effort to accomplish these improvements is needed.
The objectives of this research were to (1) produce a guidebook that demonstrates how a transportation agency can improve its scoping process and practices, and (2) develop a comprehensive and scalable scoping process template and related tools to support the guidebook that will enable a transportation agency to produce a project cost estimate and schedule that facilitates programming decision making and subsequent project delivery activities.