Establishing contract time is an important part of the highway project development process as contract time plays a significant role in determining the overall construction cost of a project, with more aggressive completion deadlines tending to increase construction costs. Extended completion dates result in longer periods of inconvenience for the traveling public due to longer periods of road construction. FHWA requires states to have a formal procedure for estimating contract time for highway construction projects and provides some recommendations for how contract times should be estimated. However, the accuracy of these tools has not been extensively examined in most agencies. A recent survey of state transportation agencies (STAs) with 41 STA respondents found that 68% of the respondents had formal, documented procedures using various methods for estimating contract time for projects but of that population over 50% did not formally evaluate their procedures or system for producing the contract time estimate. Research is needed to give STAs guidance regarding the value of having accurate and replicable processes for estimating contract time, a framework for strategically applying various contract time-estimate techniques appropriate to project characteristics and risks (including projects utilizing alternative delivery methods), and methods for evaluating time-estimation techniques and identifying how improvements may be made.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook that STAs can use to establish and maintain a systematic approach to estimating contract time through the application of estimation methods appropriate to project characteristics and risk, considering method accuracy and ways that accuracy may be improved. The guidebook should address conventional and alternative contracting methods.
The research should build on the findings of NCHRP Synthesis 502: Practices for Establishing Contract Completion Dates for Highway Projects, and may entail (1) updated review of the state-of-the-practice for contract-time estimation and methods for evaluating time-estimate accuracy, (2) identification and in-depth analysis of cases illustrating effective practices of agencies estimating contract time and considering the accuracy of estimates, (3) developing a preliminary guidebook on project-time estimation and related training materials to support an agency’s adoption of the guidance, (4) conducting a workshop of representative users to validate and refine the guidance and training materials, and (5) production of a final guidebook and training materials. The guidance provided will assist the efforts of such groups as AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Highways and Subcommittee on Construction to advance contract-time estimation practices across STAs and assist their development of more accurate contract-time estimation tools.