Cost Overruns in Large-scale Transportation Infrastructure Projects: Explanations and Their Theoretical Embeddedness

Author: Chantal C. Cantarelli, Bent Flyvbjerg, Eric J.E. Molin and Bert van Wee

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. Non-political 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.

(Taken from the paper’s abstract)

European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010