The National Academies

NCHRP 08-114 [RFP]

Systematic Approach for Estimating Construction Contract Time: A Guidebook

Posted Date: 10/25/2017

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 20 months
(includes time for NCHRP review and approval of interim products and 3 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final documents)
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/2/2018 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Andrew C. Lemer
   Phone: 202/334-3972
   Email: alemer@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 12/6/2017
Fiscal Year: 2018

Establishing an appropriate contract time is an important step in the transportation project development process.   Contract time affects construction cost, inconvenience for the public, economic impact in areas surrounding the construction project, and schedule risks. Contract time derives from an interaction of project characteristics, construction methodology, technology, and agency policies. Being able to develop credible estimates of contract time is crucial to any transportation agency’s decision making; risk management; and ability to develop, operate, and maintain the transportation system for which they are responsible. In addition, state departments of transportation (DOTs) using federal funds are required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to adopt a formal procedure for estimating construction project contract time. (Refer for example to Technical Advisory 5080.15, FHWA Guide for Construction Contract Time Determination Procedures, dated 10/15/2002, at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/contracts/t508015.cfm
However, the literature (represented, for example, by a search of the TRB’s integrated TRID database) includes few studies of methods for estimating contract time or the accuracy of such estimates. A survey conducted as part of work reported in NCHRP Synthesis 502: Practices for Establishing Contract Completion Dates for Highway Projects found that 68% of the 41 DOT respondents had formal, documented procedures for estimating project contract time, but over 50% of these respondents did not formally evaluate the quality of their procedures or the reliability of contract-time estimates. Research is needed to provide guidance DOTs can use to produce consistently credible, reliable, and defensible contract-time estimates.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook that DOTs can use to establish and maintain a systematic approach to determining credible and defensible contract times for projects using conventional and alternative contracting methods (e.g., design-bid-build without or with completion incentives and disincentives, design-build, construction-manager/general-contractor (CMGC), and other variations). The guidebook should address at least the following topics:
  • Key factors that influence contract time duration and uncertainty, for example construction production rates, regional conditions, involvement of utilities, project priority or significance, technology advancement, and contracting strategy
  • ·A framework for defining and evaluating the components of contract time, such as construction methods, site conditions, and project scope and complexity
  • Definition and measurement of effectiveness of techniques and processes for contract time determinations
  • Methodologies for making credible and defensible estimates of contract time
  • The relationship of contract time to risk management
  • Strategies for post-project contract-time evaluation and other methods to improve effectiveness of contract time determination
  • Strategies for developing, maintaining, and effectively applying experience and knowledge of contract-time determination throughout the agency
Proposers are asked to describe a detailed research plan to accomplish the project objective. The following scope description is intended to indicate NCHRP’s expectations and provide a framework for that research plan. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time and will provide opportunities for NCHRP to review and comment on research progress. Proposers must present their current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach.
The research should include at least the following milestones and deliverable products:
1. A 60- to 90-minute kickoff web conference with the NCHRP project panel, within 3 weeks of the contract’s effective date, to discuss the work plan, important technical issues, and procedure for review of research products.
Note: For budgeting purposes, proposers may assume that NCHRP will make arrangements for all web conferences.
2. Interim Report 1 (IR1) presenting a critical review of current leading practices for construction contract time determination.
Note: NCHRP anticipates that IR1 will build directly on NCHRP Synthesis 502 and extend to include experience from international practice and non-transportation infrastructure. Unless otherwise specified, all interim products should be delivered in electronic form only. Proposers should allow no less than 2 weeks for project panel review of IR1 and should plan to meet via web conference with the panel following review of the product and to document discussion and decisions made during this and subsequent teleconferences. Unless otherwise specified, NCHRP anticipates that work will proceed on other elements of the research during the review periods for IR1 and other interim products.
3. Interim Report 2 (IR2) on (a) the principal components of contract time; (b) a generic framework for contract-time estimation; (c) identification of methodologies for contract-time estimation; (d) a practical definition of contract-time estimation effectiveness and metrics for its measurement; (e) relationship of contract time to risk management; (f) a preliminary annotated outline of guidance for making the framework, methodologies, and metrics operational for DOTs and others; and (g) strategies for post-project contract-time evaluation and other methods to improve accuracy of contract time determination and for developing, maintaining, and effectively applying experience and knowledge of effective contract-time determination throughout an agency.
4. In-person meeting with the NCHRP project panel to discuss IR2 and plans for subsequent project work.
Note: For budgeting purposes, proposers should plan for a 1- to 2-day meeting at NCHRP offices in Washington, DC. NCHRP will pay panel-member travel expenses. Proposers should plan to document meeting discussions and decisions made.
5. Interim Report 3 (IR3) presenting preliminary guidance for DOTs and others on contract-time estimation, assessing the effectiveness of  contract-time estimates, and developing and enhancing agencies’ capabilities for contract-time estimation and (b) a plan for the validation workshop (item 6 below).
Note: NCHRP envisions that the materials to be used in validation will be suitable for training and will become a part of the guidance. These materials will assist DOTs and groups such as AASHTO technical committees to introduce the results of this research into DOT practice. Proposers should plan to meet with the project panel via web conference to discuss IR3 in detail.
6. Validation workshop with participants representing a cross section of the potential audience for the guidance, to test the applicability and usability of the guidance, and workshop documentation.
Note: Proposers should give their current thinking about validation of guidance usability and the workshop. NCHRP envisions the workshop will engage up to 30 participants selected to represent diverse perspectives representative of the audience for contract-time guidance.  The selected contractor will be responsible for reimbursing all participant travel expenses, including those for participating project-panel members. NCHRP approval of workshop participants shall be required. The contractor shall prepare a memorandum documenting the proceedings and lessons learned for enhancing guidance effectiveness. Proposers should plan to meet with the project panel via web conference following the workshop to discuss lessons learned and implications for the content and form of guidance to be presented in final deliverables.
7. Draft Final Report (DFR) presenting (a) guidance for DOTs on contract time estimation and (b) a summary description of the research conducted in this NCHRP project and underlying the guidance.
Note: NCHRP intends that the products of this research should be useful to DOTs and other agencies responsible for development of transportation projects, and does not wish to constrain unnecessarily the format for presenting guidance.  The guidance and summary description of the research may be presented as two documents or as a single document (for example, with appendices). Proposers should present their current thinking on this matter. Proposers should plan that NCHRP will require no less than 4 weeks to review and provide comments on the DFR.
8. Revised Final Report (RFR) reflecting research team response to NCHRP panel comments on the DFR.
Note: NCHRP will require a “response to comments” memorandum documenting NCHRP comments on the DFR and contractor responses as reflected in the RFR. Proposers should plan that NCHRP will require 20 printed copies each of the draft and final FD1.  Three months total shall be required at conclusion of the project for NCHRP review and contractor revision of the draft final deliverables, including the 4 weeks specified for review of the DFR.
A. The Research Plan, Section 4 of the proposal, must not exceed 12 pages in length; the typeface used must not be smaller than 12 points.
B. The Federal Highway Administration has recently initiated a research project that may produce information useful in this research: “Documenting Effective Uses of Project Scheduling Methodologies for Project Delivery Methods,” Contract number DTFH6117F00101. Information from that project will be made available to the selected NCHRP contractor. 
C. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.
D. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf.
E. Item 5 in the proposal, "Qualifications of the Research Team," must include a section labeled "Disclosure." Information relevant to the NCHRP's need to ensure objectivity and to be aware of possible sources of significant financial or organizational conflict of interest in conducting the research must be presented in this section of the proposal. For example, under certain conditions, ownership of the proposing agency, other organizational relationships, or proprietary rights and interests could be perceived as jeopardizing an objective approach to the research effort, and proposers are asked to disclose any such circumstances and to explain how they will be accounted for in this study. If there are no issues related to objectivity, this should be stated.
F. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) the proposer's plan for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises--small firms owned and controlled by minorities or women; and (6) the adequacy of the facilities.
Note: The proposer's plan for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.
G. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

Proposals (15 single-bound copies) are due not later than 4:30 p.m. on 12/6/2017.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, all copies of the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected. Proposers may choose any carrier or delivery service for their proposals. However, proposers assume the risk of proposal rejection if the carrier or delivery service does not deliver all the required documents by the deadline.

Delivery Address:

ATTN: Christopher J. Hedges
Director, Cooperative Research Programs
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered liability statement in order for the NCHRP to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a printable version of the Liability Statement (pdf). A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at http://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (updated August 2016). Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected. This brochure is available here.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.


Potential proposers should understand clearly that the research project described herein is tentative. The final content of the program depends on the level of funding made available through States' agreements for financial support of the NCHRP. Nevertheless, to be prepared to execute research contracts as soon as possible after sponsors' approvals, the NCHRP is assuming that the tentative program will become official in its entirety and is proceeding with requests for proposals and selections of research agencies.

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