The National Academies

NCHRP 15-51 [Final]

Pre-construction Services Cost Estimating Guidebook

  Project Data
Funds: $425,000
Research Agency: Iowa State University
Principal Investigator: Douglas Gransberg
Effective Date: 2/22/2013
Completion Date: 3/26/2016

State departments of transportation (DOTs) and other agencies responsible for development of major capital facilities rely throughout the project development process on cost estimates to verify that adequate funds are available for project completion, to negotiate for contracted services, and to ensure that the development process is responsibly conducted. Substantial effort is required for a variety of activities that must occur before construction begins, and the ability to define the scope and estimate accurately the costs of these pre-construction activities is essential to agency planning, programming, budgeting, and management functions. Tighter budgets, funding limitations, and growing emphasis on accountability in government spending increase the importance of accurate and reliable cost estimation.  In this project, pre-construction services (PCS) refers to engineering and other professional services required before construction begins on a bridge, highway, or other transportation project. The activities for which services are required—whether provided by agency staff or consultants—are project-specific and may include planning, PCS contract negotiation, preliminary engineering, environmental studies, subsurface investigations, rights-of-way surveys and acquisitions, design and bid document preparation, design modifications and associated PCS scope changes, and construction procurement. Similar professional services may be required during and following construction (such as construction engineering, inspection and quality assurance, and claims analysis), but are not meant to be explicitly considered in this project. PCS cost estimating practices vary greatly among DOTs and even within a single agency for different types of services and different stages of project development.  The resources allocated to cost estimation and the policies, procedures, and information systems that support cost estimating vary as well.  Uncertainties at the outset of the project development process such as the range of design alternatives to be considered; the extent of environmental, safety, and traffic mitigation activities likely to be required; and the need for phasing strategies to accommodate budgetary limitations make PCS cost estimating particularly challenging.There have been some efforts made to understand how PCS costs for transportation projects are related to project characteristics and to provide guidance for cost estimation. In addition, the problems of PCS cost estimation are not unique to transportation; research and experience from other types of construction may offer lessons and guidance for DOTs. DOTs and their various stakeholders can benefit from more accurate and effective PCS cost estimating tools and practices.
The objective of this research was to develop a guidebook, for use by DOTs and other agencies, on estimating pre-construction services (PCS) costs for transportation project development. The guidebook addresses principal sources and components of PCS costs, PCS estimating methodologies, trends (such as changes in design and construction technology, design standards, program requirements, and professional work force) likely to affect PCS costs, and advice on agency policies and practices that can help control program risk through improved PCS cost estimation.
The guidebook and a supporting research document have been published NCHRP Report 826, a two-volume set.  Click here for access to these documents

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