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Cost overruns in Large-Scale Transportation Infrastructure Projects: Explanations and Their Theoretical Embeddedness

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  • Chantal C. Cantarelli
  • Bent Flybjerg
  • Eric J. E. Molin
  • Bert van Wee

Abstract

Managing large-scale transportation infrastructure projects is difficult due to frequent misinformation about the costs which results in large cost overruns that often threaten the overall project viability. This paper investigates the explanations for cost overruns that are given in the literature. Overall, four categories of explanations can be distinguished: technical, economic, psychological, and political. Political explanations have been seen to be the most dominant explanations for cost overruns. Agency theory is considered the most interesting for political explanations and an eclectic theory is also considered possible. Nonpolitical explanations are diverse in character, therefore a range of different theories (including rational choice theory and prospect theory), depending on the kind of explanation is considered more appropriate than one all-embracing theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Chantal C. Cantarelli & Bent Flybjerg & Eric J. E. Molin & Bert van Wee, 2013. "Cost overruns in Large-Scale Transportation Infrastructure Projects: Explanations and Their Theoretical Embeddedness," Papers 1307.2176, arXiv.org.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1307.2176
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    File URL: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1307.2176
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Trujillo, Lourdes & Quinet, Emile & Estache, Antonio, 2002. "Dealing with demand forecasting games in transport privatization," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 325-334, October.
    2. Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2005. "Measuring inaccuracy in travel demand forecasting: methodological considerations regarding ramp up and sampling," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 522-530, July.
    3. Daniel Kahneman & Dan Lovallo, 1993. "Timid Choices and Bold Forecasts: A Cognitive Perspective on Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(1), pages 17-31, January.
    4. Mackie, Peter & Preston, John, 1998. "Twenty-one sources of error and bias in transport project appraisal," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-7, January.
    5. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    6. Bent Flyvbjerg & Mette K. Skamris holm & Søren L. Buhl, 2003. "How common and how large are cost overruns in transport infrastructure projects?," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 71-88, January.
    7. Arvan, Lanny & Leite, Antonio P. N., 1990. "Cost overruns in long term projects," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 443-467, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giuliano Marella & Valentina Antoniucci, 2019. "Time Overrun in Public Works—Evidence from North-East Italy," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(24), pages 1-17, December.
    2. Joseph Sturm & Mashrur Chowdhury & Anne Dunning & Jennifer Ogle, 2011. "Analysis of cost estimation disclosure in environmental impact statements for surface transportation projects," Transportation, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 525-544, May.
    3. Kirchherr, Julian & Ahrenshop, Mats-Philip & Charles, Katrina, 2019. "Resettlement lies: Suggestive evidence from 29 large dam projects," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 208-219.

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