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GDOT Planning Level Cost Estimation Review Study

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Overview of Problem

Cost escalation has become a major concern in virtually every field of capital project development. On top of regular inflation, the volatility of the global oil market is tied directly to most construction related items (primarily asphalt), thereby causing shifts in cost by the rising and falling oil prices. Within the transportation sector, cost escalation has attracted attention at the federal, state, regional, and local government levels for highways, transit, and other modes. State Departments of Transportation, transit agencies, and other government entities responsible for delivering transportation projects historically have experienced increases in project cost estimates from the time that a project is first proposed or programmed until the time that it is completed. Since project costs are first estimated at the planning level, this initial estimate must be based on a sound process to ensure a reliable estimate is developed for decision-makers. The dependability of sound preliminary engineering, right-of-way, utility relocation, and construction planning level cost estimates is a major component in the development of a transportation program. If planning level projects costs are not adequately estimated at the planning stage, projects most likely will be delayed or even cancelled once a final cost is developed.


The Georgia Department of Transportation Office of Planning hired Wilbur Smith Associates to develop new processes and procedures to ensure future planning level cost estimates included the following:

 Standardize planning level cost estimate process;
 Reliable construction material costs;
 Reliable right-of-way costs;
 Reliable utility relocation costs;
 Reliable Preliminary Engineering (PE) costs;
 Contingencies to account for project risk and uncertainty; and
 Communication between offices.

The outcome resulted in new processes and procedures, as well as the development of two distinct planning level cost estimation tools. The first is RUCEST, the Right of Way and Utility Relocation Cost Estimate Tool. RUCEST estimates Right of Way and Utility Relocation Cost based on the current and proposed typical sections, assumed existing and needed Right of Way for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural land types, as well as known and assumed utilities.

The second tool is built upon the AASHTO developed Trns•port© Cost Estimation System© (CES©) tool. CES was programmed to provide planning level construction cost based on the proposed project’s typical section while utilizing the latest available project cost trends supported by historical GDOT bid data.

The RUCEST and Trns•port© CES© tools and the new processes and procedures are currently assisting the Office of Planning and MPOs in their duties to develop and update planning level cost estimates for their multimodal transportation studies.

The planning level cost estimation process provides the Department a sound foundation to develop and maintain their transportation programs. In return, it provides senior management at the Department reliable information to assist in the decision-making process as future Long Range programs and the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) are updated.


Jeff Carroll
Wilbur Smith Associates
Mr. Carroll, a senior planner with Wilbur Smith Associates, has more than 15 years of experience in transportation planning, including performing and managing TIP and LRTP updates for urban areas and developing planning level cost estimates throughout the Southeast. He has conducted regional, statewide, countywide, and multicounty transportation studies, traffic studies, corridor studies, bypass studies, and interstate studies, as well as coordinated local land use plans and future transportation improvements. Mr. Carroll’s additional skills include understanding SAFETEA-LU requirements and how this federal legislation impacts statewide and metropolitan transportation planning activities. Jeff lives in Columbia, SC with his wife and two girls Caroline (5) and Mary Margaret (3).

Dave Cox
Georgia Department of Transportation
Office of Planning
Mr. Cox, an urban planner with Georgia Department of Transportation’s Office of Planning, has more than 8 years of experience in transportation planning, including updating and managing TIP and LRTP’s for urban areas and developing planning level cost estimates throughout Georgia. He has conducted statewide, countywide, and multicounty transportation studies, traffic analysis studies, corridor studies, as well as coordinated future transportation improvements. Mr. Cox’s additional skills include traffic simulation modeling and developing Benefit over Cost ratios to improve the methods used in prioritizing projects for future implementation across Georgia. Dave lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and his twin son & daughter, Aaron (2) and Emma (2).