Pre-construction Services Cost Estimating Guidebook

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 departments of transportation (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. Research is needed to understand the current state of PCS cost estimating practice, to disseminate most effective practices more widely among DOTs, and to develop new methods and tools to improve the PCS cost-estimating accuracy of DOTs and other transportation agencies. The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook, for use by DOTs and other agencies, on estimating pre-construction services (PCS) costs for transportation project development. The guidebook should address at least the following topics: (1) The principal sources or components of PCS costs (for example, direct labor, other direct costs, indirect costs, profit, in terms of dollars and labor hours), as estimated at various stages of project development, whether PCS are provided by agency staff or consultants, and factors likely to influence these costs. (2) Procedures for identifying the scope of PCS for cost-estimation for particular projects (for example, based on project type, scope, scale, duration, and degree of complexity). (3) Estimating methodologies, rules of thumb, analysis-based models, and analysis tools representing effective practices that an agency can apply to estimate PCS costs for specific projects. (4) Advice on appropriate degrees of effort and sophistication to be used in PCS cost estimation (for example, based on type of project, total anticipated project cost, purpose of estimate, procurement strategy, and stage in the development process). (5) Advice on reporting PCS costs (for example, apparent accuracy, use of error bands, use of statistical measures of uncertainty). (6) Trends influencing agencies' abilities to estimate PCS costs (such as changes in design and construction technology, design standards, program requirements, and professional work force) and how these trends may influence reliability of cost estimates. (7) General advice on agency policies, practices, and organization that can influence an agency's ability to control risk through PCS cost estimating practices. The guidebook is meant to be suitable for formal balloting and acceptance by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Design through the Technical Committee on Preconstruction Engineering Management and for maintenance and updating by these or other AASHTO groups.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 15-51

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

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

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

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

    Lemer, Andrew

  • Performing Organizations:

    Iowa State University, Ames

    Iowa State University Forestry Extension
    339 Science II
    Ames, Iowa  United States  50011-3221
  • Principal Investigators:

    Gransberg, Douglas

  • Start Date: 20130222
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20150822
  • Source Data: RiP Project 38668

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01549645
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 15-51
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jan 6 2015 1:00AM