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

State departments of transportation (DOTs) continue to experience pressure to deliver highway projects faster, better, and at less cost. This pressure has been recently exacerbated by the demands of the 2009 "Economic Stimulus Bill" which requires that projects be advertised and awarded in extremely short periods of time. SEP-14 authorized a number of experimental project delivery approaches which have successfully been implemented across the nation. One of those was design-build (DB) contracting. The 2006 Report to Congress on the effectiveness of DB showed that approximately 35 states had authorized their DOTs to try DB under the SEP-14 authorization. Many of them subsequently passed legislation that generally authorized the use of DB based on the pilot project outcomes. However, NCHRP Synthesis 376 found that 63% of the states had only completed one to three projects. Some states, like Ohio, have decided to severely restrict DB usage, and roughly 15 states are not able to utilize it because they do not have the necessary enabling legislation. It can be speculated that those states that are not currently authorized to use DB will probably not be authorized to in the future. Therefore, those DOTs are severely limited in their ability to accelerate their projects and to accrue the other benefits that were found in the SEP-14 Report. The major criticisms of DB cited in NCHRP Synthesis 376 were the DOT's loss of control over the details of design as well as the perception that permitting the construction contractor to have a fiduciary relationship with the designer was inappropriate. The major reasons for using DB contracting found in several recent TRB studies have been the ability to compress the schedule, the early involvement of the contractor in the design process through constructability reviews, and the single point of responsibility for both design and construction achieved in a DB contract. Research has found that traditional project delivery creates additional problems for DOTs when they try to accelerate project delivery. Techniques like the California DOT's design-sequencing method have not proven to be altogether satisfactory. Thus, DOTs that are unable to use DB need a project delivery method that permits them some of the benefits of DB without giving up control over the design. Construction manager-at-risk (CMR), which is also called construction manager as general contractor (CM/GC), appears to provide just that. In a CMR contract, the owner contracts separately with the project's designer and builder. 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 contractor is usually selected on the basis of qualifications and past performance, though some DOTs with CMR experience also include a price function in their selection process. The CMR is awarded a preconstruction services contract which directs it to perform services such as constructability reviews, project estimates and schedules, coordination with third parties, and making input to the design through value engineering and market analysis. At some point the CMR and DOT negotiate a guaranteed maximum price (GMP), and the CMR begins bidding out subcontractor and material supplier work packages. Many agencies allow the CMR 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 it 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. CMR furnishes a much less radical procurement culture shift than DB because the owner still holds the design contract and hence retains control of the design details. However, the contractor is selected based on its qualifications and is able to influence the design through its preconstruction services contract. One DOT project manager interviewed in NCHRP Synthesis 402 stated: "CMR allows us to get all the benefits of DB without giving up control of the design." Therefore, the outcomes from NCHRP Synthesis 402 clearly show the need to develop a set of uniform guidelines that individual 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 main research objective is to capture the CMR experience available from the eight state DOTs, numerous city and county engineering, and streets departments and public transportation agencies in transit and airport. This study will then assemble a set of best practices and develop a guidebook that can be utilized by agencies wishing to implement CMR contracting in their highway construction programs.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 10-85

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC    20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  USA  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Reynaud, David

  • Start Date: 20100615
  • Source Data: RiP Project 26491

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01463917
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 10-85
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:32PM