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Research Implementation Plan

Project Title:
Project Scoping/State of Practice: Washington State
Project WA-RD#: 680.1
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Ken Casavant, Dr. Eric Jessup, and Mark Holmgren, WSU.
Technical Monitor: Mark Gabel, WSDOT

Description of the Problem
The underestimation of WSDOT construction projects costs and schedules can damage agency credibility. Scoping identifies a project’s purpose and need, its characteristics, and its predicted schedule and estimated cost. The overall goal of this research project was to investigate ways to accurately scope projects using a process that aligns with the critical path development for programming and the legislative budget cycle. Inadequate scoping of a project often affects the project’s schedule and budget and can mislead or give incomplete information to decision makers as they allocate project funding. We know from past experiences that projects that have underestimated costs and schedules, especially for mega-projects, are problematic. They can become the basis for public distrust, lack of confidence in project implementers, and lack of interest for increased funding. These “over-budget” and “overdue” projects have generated considerable literature, studies, Web site activity, and media attention.

Major Discovery
The researchers did an extensive review of literature on the subject of scoping and cost escalation. A broad survey and review of the activities and efforts of 14 states, usually by the Departments of Transportation, augmented the literature review. The common elements of the survey and literature review: 

  • Cost estimation is a challenging component of the scoping process both in a budgeting and public trust context. WSDOT found that a project cost estimate is most accurately expressed, not as a single number, but as a range.
  • Transparency of WSDOT’s scoping process will encourage accurate estimates in an ongoing fashion while fostering acceptance of those estimates and project characteristics. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s public information program, the Dashboard Web site, gives the public an easy to use and understand tool on project status and is a model mentioned favorably in the reviews and survey.
  • Historical data are snapshots in the past in a changing market; and while historical data are useful, augment with additional knowledge and judgment. Inflation indices guide the growth in costs; but no one can guarantee what the future will bring.


Use of information to WSDOT and Value to WSDOT
The information gained from this research is useful in promoting an increased emphasis and placing a higher priority on estimating throughout project development. This research also affirms WSDOT Cost Risk-Based Estimating Practices (CEVP and CRA) and endorses expanding use of the CRA/CEVP workshop. The survey of other states is helpful in benchmarking WSDOT’s program to develop a best practice approach. The risk-based estimating processes (Cost Estimate Validation Process [CEVP] and Cost Risk Assessment [CRA]) developed by WSDOT were well accepted, and often recommended, in the review of literature and survey of states. The research serves as a communication tool to increase the understanding and value of WSDOT’s risk-based estimating processes.


Implementation Plan Checklist

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT   Management decision
  Manual change   Funding
  Policy development or change x Training
  Development of software/computer
application
  Information technology deployment
Development of new process x Information sharing
  Additional research needed   Other (specify)
  Project produced no usable results  
x Other (describe) Ideas for Best Practices  


Research Implementation Plan

Project Title:
Performance Analysis and Forecasting for WSDOT Highway Projects
Project WA-RD#: 675.1
Principal Investigator: Ahmed M. Abdel Aziz, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, University of Washington
Technical Monitor: Craig McDaniel, WSDOT Construction Administration

WSDOT builds hundreds of transportation projects every year. We rely on time and cost predictions for these projects to make monitoring, planning, and budgeting decisions. WSDOT maintains a wealth of data from past and present construction projects, which provides us with, among other things, feedback for future project cost and time estimating.

It is important to create and use as many administration oversight tools as possible. As a result of this research, we now have benchmark performance profiles as a tool for evaluating project progress and estimating cost and time.

The products of the research are the graphs which define a performance envelope pertaining to different project criteria. This enables construction administration managers to flag projects that fall outside of expected performances thereby warranting special attention. It also provides executive management with a quick, high-level view of whether the projects are progressing consistent with what has been determined to be successful.

Implementation Plan Checklist

Results achieved
through this research
Items/Actions needed to
implement results
x Knowledge to assist WSDOT Management decision
Manual change Funding
Policy development or change Training
Development of software/computer
application
Information technology deployment
x Development of new process x Information sharing
Additional research needed Other (specify)
Project produced no usable results
Other (describe)