The National Academies

NCHRP 10-85 [Final]

A Guidebook for Construction Manager-at-Risk Contracting for Highway Projects

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: Iowa State University
Principal Investigator: Douglas D. Gransberg, PhD, PE
Effective Date: 3/8/2011
Completion Date: 7/31/2013
Comments: Completed. The Contractor's Final Report was published by AASHTO.


State departments of transportation (DOTs) continue to experience pressure to deliver highway projects faster, better, and at less cost. The Federal Highway Administration’s Special Experimental Project 14: Innovative Contracting authorized a number of experimental project delivery approaches that have been successfully  implemented across the nation. One of those was Design-Build (DB), for which most states have enacted enabling legislation and SEP-14 approval is no longer required. Under SEP-14, the use of Construction Manager-at-Risk (CMR), which is also called Construction Manager as General Contractor (CM/GC), was authorized for several states. Unlike DB, most states do not have enabling legislation to use CMR. Research has found that traditional Design Bid Build (DBB) project delivery creates problems for DOTs when they try to use DBB to accelerate project delivery. While DB has been successful in many states for accelerating project delivery, it is not appropriate for all projects.   States are seeking additional project delivery methods to address risk management, improve schedule delivery, and enable collaboration on design decisions.    CMR is one delivery method that may address these issues.In a CMR contract, the owner contracts separately with the project’s designer and construction manager.  The design contract is modified to create contractual obligations for the designer to proceed with its work in a manner that facilitates the CMR process. The construction manager is usually selected on a basis of qualifications and past performance, though some DOTs with CMR experience also include a price function in their selection process. The construction manager is awarded a preconstruction services contract that directs it to perform services such as constructability reviews, project estimates and schedules, coordination with third parties, risk assessment, and market analysis. At some point in the design process, the construction manager and DOT agree to a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) and the construction manager begins securing subcontractor and material supplier agreements. Many agencies allow the construction manager to lock in construction prices for features of work with volatile material pricing before the final GMP is established. NCHRP Synthesis 402: Construction Manager-at-Risk Project Delivery for Highway Programs found that 30% of the state DOTs surveyed responded that they had either never heard of CMR or did not understand how it worked. Four states with authorization had not tried it because they had no guidance or experience from which to begin. The outcomes from the synthesis show the need exists to develop a set of guidelines that agencies can use to either implement CMR project delivery or to revise their current procedures to take advantage of lessons learned by DOTs and other transportation sectors, such as transit and airports.  
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook for initiating and implementing a CMR project delivery system for highway projects at transportation agencies.  At a minimum, the guidebook should address the following:
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of CMR?
  • What characteristics of a project make it a good candidate for CMR?
 Agency Implementation
  • What are examples of enabling legislation?
  • What cultural changes must an agency adopt to use CMR?
  • What skill sets must an agency’s personnel have to implement CMR?
  • How can in-house design capability be effectively utilized in a CMR project delivery?
  • How should agencies procure construction manager preconstruction services? What selection criteria are typically used?
  • How are CMR contracts effectively established to withstand public scrutiny?
  • How and when is a construction manager’s price and schedule assessed and validated?
  • What happens if a GMP cannot be agreed on?
  • How can incentives and disincentives be effectively incorporated?
 Contract Administration
  • Should self-performance requirements be imposed on the construction manager?
  • How is the risk allocation process implemented?
  • What are the best practices for subcontracting and DBE participation?
  • What should be contained in the design services contract and the construction manager’s preconstruction services contract?
  • How are quality control processes implemented in CMR delivery?
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
(1). Define the state of the practice in CMR for transportation projects through a comprehensive literature search and collection and analysis of the following: relevant CMR procurement documents, CMR design and construction contracts, CMR enabling legislation, and barriers to CMR implementation. (2). Collect and review information from all construction disciplines pertinent to the preparation of a guidebook for CMR contracting on highway projects. (3). Prepare case studies of CMR contracting at transportation agencies. Prior to conducting the case studies, submit the proposed case studies and their rationale for review and approval by NCHRP.(4). Prepare a detailed outline of the guidebook.(5). Prepare an interim report presenting the results of Tasks 1 through 4. The interim report should also include an updated work plan for the remaining tasks.(6). Prepare a guidebook for initiating and implementing a CMR highway project delivery system for highway projects at transportation agencies. (7). Prepare a revised guidebook and a final report documenting the entire research effort.


The final report for this project was published by AASHTO.

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/trbnetprojectdisplay.asp?projectid=2963