The estimated cost of a project is critical information for the public, decision-makers in legislative bodies, and transportation officials when deciding which transportation projects to support. Since these important funding decisions are often made during the early stages of planning and programming, when information is limited and cost estimates are only conceptual in nature, the cost profile of a project is liable to change in the subsequent phases of project delivery. These changes can be attributed to several factors, such as increases in costs of construction materials, unexpected site conditions, and other issues that may alter a project's scope, design or implementation schedule. Sometimes these changes can be significant, to the point that they would have changed the initial decision to advance the project.
As a result, one of the critical elements of a successful project delivery - one in which public confidence and trust are maintained throughout the process - lies in the adoption of a rigorous integrated cost estimating approach, one in which estimates are reviewed and updated continually, from systems planning through the NEPA process up to construction to ensure that accurate and current cost data is available to all stakeholders interested in the project.
In the case of Major Projects, which are relatively more complex and contain more risk elements than others, a rigorous cost estimating process becomes even more critical. One of the key mandates of the Center for Innovative Finance Support is to ensure that State-developed cost estimates for Major Projects are reasonable and supportable. Located in the Guidance and Resources Sections within this portal are reference materials that provide guidance and sound cost estimating practices for Major Projects.