Apply differentiators to select the appropriate procurement package for any ITS project.
Experience from a review of ITS contracting methods and practices. Step 6 of the Decision Model.
Made Public Date


United States

Guide to Contracting ITS Projects


Experience has shown that the ITS procurement method can have a significant impact on the ultimate success of the ITS installation. Currently, the success rate for intelligent transportation systems life cycle is very low. Some of the key issues that have been identified with the procurement process include incorrect contracting approach, inexperience of the agency, failure to follow appropriate procedures, and inadequate commitment of project management and systems engineering resources.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) funded this research with the objective of developing a guide to contracting ITS projects and services that would assist government officials, traffic engineers, system integrators, and others involved in the specification development and purchasing of ITS installations. The approach for this study included an extensive literature review as well as a survey of state and local Departments of Transportation to learn about their current practices and experiences with ITS contracting. As a result, a report of findings, "Considerations for a Guide to Contracting ITS Projects" and "Guide to Contracting ITS Projects" were published. This guide presents an eight-step Decision Model that guides agencies through the procurement process and enables them to select the most appropriate procurement package for their project. To obtain a complete understanding of the Decision Model, readers should consider the full set of lessons learned (as each lesson learned is based on a separate step of the decision model).

Lessons Learned

Characteristics of the project as well as the capabilities of the procuring agency are critical to identifying the appropriate ITS procurement package. Included in this document is a decision matrix that outlines feasible procurement solutions based on the nature of the project and the agencies’ level of experience and organization. In some cases, however, the decision matrix identifies multiple procurement packages for a given project. Under such circumstances, an additional set of criteria, or differentiators, are applied to decide between the possible procurement packages.

More specifically, the differentiators include the following set of observations:

  • Utilize a systems manager rather than a design-build approach when new software development is required.
  • Utilize design-build (rather than systems manager) when a significant amount of field construction is involved, and there is a desire to reduce implementation delays associated with having to administer multiple contracts.
  • Utilize the evolutionary systems engineering model to the extent that it is possible. Utilize the spiral model for complex, untested, new developments.
  • Split a project into multiple contracts if it includes both new field construction and new software.
  • Utilize low bid contracting only if projects are limited to field construction and supply of off-the-shelf equipment. Low bid procurement is applicable only to extremely well defined projects.
  • Utilize commodity procurement if an existing ITS package is available that does not require any modification to meet agency requirements. Examples of exceptions are new drivers for interface with communications and field equipment; a new database reflecting system configurations, and new map graphics.

The set of differentiators presented in the Decision Model is an important tool for deciding among potential procurement packages and contributes to the overall efficiency of the ITS procurement process. By utilizing this process, agencies can experience cost as well as time-savings, and importantly, selecting the appropriate procurement package has an influence on the ultimate success of the ITS deployment.

Guide to Contracting ITS Projects

Guide to Contracting ITS Projects
Publication Sort Date
Kenneth R. Marshall and Philip J. Tarnoff
National Cooperative Highway Research Board

(Our website has many links to other organizations. While we offer these electronic linkages for your convenience in accessing transportation-related information, please be aware that when you exit our website, the privacy and accessibility policies stated on our website may not be the same as that on other websites.)

Application Areas
Goal Areas

Focus Areas Taxonomy: