Public Works

Chapter 2 - Getting Started
Starting each project with a well-defined plan is critical to its success. In this phase, the City Project Manager (PM) will collect information required for the appropriate planning of a CIP project and present it in a report-type format – the CIP Statement Form. With appropriate effort during the project planning phase, unforeseen issues are less likely in the design and construction phases of a project.

With all the research and data collection complete, an initial concept identified, and buy-in from others – including Public Works, Utilities, and potentially other City departments/division staff – the project can proceed. This chapter includes the steps to take before design commences, including establishing a project number, assembling the design team, setting up project folders, and setting up Microsoft Project to help track and manage the project.

The subjects in this chapter include:

The following flow chart summarizes the tasks involved during the Getting Started phase.
The CIP Statement Form
Every CIP project begins as an idea. The idea is usually generated in response to a need or problem as a means of addressing it. To determine if an idea should become a project, the PM will fill out the CIP Statement Form.

The PM will gather information – with input from other Public Works divisions, City departments, and possibly outside agencies – to help scope the project, plan out the time requirements to complete it and anticipate the needs of external stakeholders. At the end of this process, a go/no-go decision will be made for each project. If the project is a “go”, each team member will sign their name at the bottom of the CIP Statement Form, indicating that they have provided input and that they agree that the project is warranted and should proceed.

The CIP Statement Form is contained in the Project Development Guide (PDG). The PDG covers a project’s life cycle from Getting Started to the beginning of the construction phase. This working document is the collection of essential and basic project information that creates a record of the project. The form will be updated and revised several times as a project progresses, and is ultimately used to create the Project Manual.


The following is an outline of key sections in the PDG.

Project Name
A project name should generally describe the entire project in one sentence and should include, at a minimum, the project location (including quadrant) and the type of work. The roadway limits should be listed from south to north or west to east. When a project is located all within one quadrant, the quadrant need only be included in the primary roadway name. If the project crosses quadrants, the quadrant should be indicated for the project limit roadways.


  • Center Point Road NE from J Avenue to 29th Street Intersection Reconstruction and One-Way to Two-Way Conversion
  • Old Marion Road NE from South of Regent Street to C Avenue Pavement Rehabilitation
  • Pedestrian Crossing Upgrade 1st Avenue East from 2nd Street to 5th Street
  • Peace Avenue NW from Jacolyn Drive to Midway Drive Pavement and Water Main Improvements
  • Edgewood Road NW Portland Cement Concrete Trail from the Cedar River to Ellis Road
  • Hoosier Creek East of Earhart Lane SW Sanitary Sewer Improvements
  • FY20 Sanitary Sewer Lining Improvements
  • McLoud Run from J Avenue NE to Collins Road NE Drainage Improvements

Project Limits
The project limits should encompass the entire project. A more comprehensive description of the limits can be added here. For example, if the project has multiple locations – i.e. pavement milling project or curbs repair project – all locations can be listed.

Envision CR Goal
Envision CR is the City’s comprehensive plan – a visionary plan for Cedar Rapids’ future. The structure of plan is organized around six strategic elements, each providing goals, and initiatives for public policy. The goal of a CIP project typically falls within the GrowCR, ConnectCR, or ProtectCR elements.

Refer to document: ENVISION CR

Project Purpose and Need Statement
As stated earlier, the idea for a project is usually generated in response to a need or problem. This need is often identified by citizens, City Council, City staff, or other agencies. The need should be identified as well as what is to be achieved by addressing the need with a project.


  • The purpose of this project is to extend the pavement life. The pavement’s condition warrants improvements but does not yet need replacement.
  • The purpose of this project is to replace the pavement. The pavement condition has deteriorated to the point where complete reconstruction is necessary.
  • The purpose of this project is to provide a safe and reliable source of potable water to the neighborhood. The existing water main has an established break history and needs to be replaced.
  • The purpose of this project is to increase the sanitary sewer capacity needs in the area. Upstream flow has increased due to the development of an industrial site.
  • The purpose of this project is to construct ADA ramps at the intersection. A safe route to school goes through the intersection and there are no sidewalk ramps.
  • The purpose of this project is to construct a roundabout at the intersection. The existing all-way stop cannot handle the traffic and is unsafe.

A concern of citizens, the City Council, other departments, or other agencies will not warrant a project. This section justifies that the issue is a project deserving of additional review and consideration. If the City ultimately decides to proceed with the project, the language contained in this section may be useful when preparing Council Agenda Cover Sheets.

Managing Project Risks
After determining what goals need to be achieved with a project, it is important to think about what could prevent the achievement of those goals. Think about what will define the success of the project and what the risks are to that success, such as:

  • Adjacent land use – What is the current and anticipated land or property adjacent to the proposed project that may be impacted? Is it near a hospital or school? Are there alternative routes to access the area if road closures are necessary?
  • Right-of-Way (ROW)– Is additional ROW anticipated to be acquired? Who is ROW required from – private citizens, local businesses, national businesses, and railroad?
  • Utilities – Are there any known existing utilities that need to be relocated or replaced? Is there enough time for the work to occur?
  • Railroad – Will the project include a railroad crossing?
  • Assessments – Will a portion of the project costs be assessed to the property owners? Are they aware of this?
  • Permits – What permits might be required? Will the construction zone be in a floodplain or floodway? Is any part of the project along a state highway route or within Linn County’s jurisdiction?
  • Public acceptance – Is there a known opposition to the project?
  • Nature of project – Is there a high degree of difficulty or complexity? Is the site easily accessible?
  • Construction factors – Can local contractors do the work? Is there a significant amount of similar construction in the area that could affect costs?
  • Construction project schedule – Are there specific milestones that must be met (i.e. intersection open before school starts)?

The PM should brainstorm five to ten potential risks that could impact the project, identify the potential impacts of these risks, prioritize the risks by severity and probability, and then develop measures to eliminate or mitigate the risks. One way to prioritize risk is using the formula: Priority = Severity x Probability

consequence of severity

Potential challenges should be closely considered and mitigation measures should be identified for all risks with a high to extreme potential impact on scope, schedule, and/or budget.

Initial Concept and Anticipated Project Scope
The initial concept is essentially the anticipated scope of the project – i.e. what the project includes. The scope should directly address the project’s purpose. The Initial Concept should be a few sentences about the scope of the project while the Anticipated Project Scope is just a “check-the-box” for everything that might apply.

Example Initial Concept:

  • This project consists of PCC patching, cracking, and seating existing pavement, asphalt overlay, upgrade of existing non-conforming sidewalk ramps, water valve, and hydrant replacement, and other miscellaneous work.
  • The project consists of the reconstruction of a portion of the street, construction of a roundabout at the intersection, construction of a new sidewalk, replacement of non-conforming sidewalk ramps, storm sewer improvements, water main relocation, lighting design, and landscape design.

The initial concept is just that – a concept. It is just a starting point, not a commitment. If the City decides to proceed with the project, a project scope will be finalized later in the process.

Funding Sources
All known funding sources should be identified at the start of the project. The processes in this manual will be followed for projects with local funds. If state and/or federal funds are incorporated into the project, that may trigger additional requirements, not covered in this manual.

Tentative Schedule
Without a schedule, a project would likely never get done. At this early planning stage, it is important to develop a preliminary schedule of the work. This helps the City plan for cash flow, helps determine specific periods for resources (i.e. when will right-of-way agent be needed), and enhances communication among the project team as everyone understands the big picture.

When developing a schedule, consider the complexity of the project, what tasks need to be accomplished, and what the relationship is between tasks (i.e. does one task need to be completed before another task can be started). Identify typical and critical milestones taking into account things such as school schedules (i.e. does this project need to be completed while school is not in session), community events, holidays, and the impact on traffic with other area projects (parallel arterial streets should not be under construction at the same time).

Take into account things that may be out of the City’s control such as private and/or public utility relocations, right-of-way negotiations, and time to coordinate with a railroad. Additional information regarding timelines for these items can be found later in the manual.

Also identify any time restrictions associated with funding, especially if applying for grants. The application deadline, length of time for acceptance decision, and date of funding availability should be considered.

Existing Conditions
The more information available at the planning stage of a project, the better setup it will be for success. Below are several items that should be addressed during project option development.

Record Drawing Research
The purpose of this item is to research and collect the plans / as-builts available for the improvements affecting the project area. This shall include both public and private improvement record drawings. The most helpful piece of information for finding record plans is having a project number or, failing that, a timeframe for the previous work.


Field Check 
A quick walk or drive-through of a project at the planning stage may reveal things not originally considered.

ADA Compliance 
Sidewalks, street crossings, transit stops, and other elements in the public right-of-way can pose challenges to accessibility. The project area should be evaluated for accessibility and all elements that do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should be identified to be addressed in the project.

Geotechnical Report
This item includes a collection of the best available information related to soil types in the project area. Soil borings are required for most projects and should be included in the scope of services.

Existing Pavement
The purpose of this item is to collect the best available information about the age and condition of existing pavement in the project area, including the type of surface, planned maintenance, and existing maintenance bonds. Pavement cores may be required to verify pavement structure, soundness, and depth. This item also includes gathering design data such as functional classification, traffic volume, and design speed.

Sanitary Sewers
This item includes a collection of all information related to the sanitary sewer system in the project area. The City sewer maintenance division has an annual program to televise sanitary sewer pipes. These televising videos are available on the City’s Infrastructure Viewer. If video is not available for some time within the last three years, current television inspections may be requested via the Engineering On-Call Sewer Televising Contract. For the sewer services, if the adjacent buildings were constructed between 1947 and 1971, there is a high possibility that the services are constructed of Orangeburg material, which is prone to failure. Sanitary sewer service records should be checked to determine when laterals were installed.


Storm Sewers
This item includes a collection of all information related to the storm sewer system in the project area. Like the sanitary sewer, the City sewer maintenance division has an annual program to televise storm sewer pipes. These televising videos are available on the City’s Infrastructure Viewer. If video is not available for some time within the last three years, current television inspections may be requested via the Engineering On-Call Sewer Televising Contract. This item should also include a collection of information related to the hydrology and hydraulics of surface water within the project corridor including information related to existing detention, hydraulics of significant structures and/or pipe sections, and other pertinent information. Finally, this item includes a collection of stormwater quality and quantity control information per Best Management Practices (BMPs) for project type and project area. Refer to the Iowa Statewide Urban Designs and Specifications (SUDAS) manual for direction. Contact should be made with the Stormwater Program Manager for input regarding whether a BMP should be considered for the project.

Water Main
This item includes a collection of all information related to the water main system in the project area. Check with the Utilities Department to determine if the project area is on the water main replacement priority list. Utilities will also identify any other proposed improvements such as lead service replacement, valve, and hydrant removals and/or replacements, and the need for cathodic protection.

Bridge or Culvert
This item includes a review of bi-annual inspection reports, a check for hydraulic analysis and/or design memorandums, joint inspection, and completion of a field review of the structure to determine the size and condition.

Traffic Data
This item includes a collection of the best available information related to existing and proposed traffic counts. If existing information is not available, the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or the Iowa DOT may be used as a resource. If reasonable information is not available from any of these sources, field traffic counts may be required. This item should also include a collection of crash history over 3 to 5 years from the Cedar Rapids Traffic Engineering division. Traffic crash analysis should include collision diagrams to visualize the number and types of traffic accidents.

Stakeholder Impacts
Public acceptance can be fleeting and prone to change. A project that is Quoteneeded – and even clamored for – can suddenly fall from public acceptance if the proper stakeholders were not involved from the beginning. That is why it is essential to take a proactive approach to public relations.

Take into consideration if the project is near a church, school, hospital, or emergency service building. Special consideration should be given to projects in a business or industrial area. Make a list of major stakeholders who will be impacted by the project including:

  • Property owners
  • Businesses
  • Daily users
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Railroads

Environmental Impacts
There is a prescribed process for complying with the environmental permitting process. The CIP Statement Form contains a checklist to help determine which agencies and processes may be involved with the project.

Anticipated Permit Needs
Consider what City, County, State, and Federal permits may be necessary for the project. Again, the CIP Statement Form contains a checklist to help determine what permits from which agencies may be involved with the project.

Historical / Archaeological Impacts
The National Historic Preservation Act requires an agency to take into account the effects a project may have on properties eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This requirement only applies to CIP projects if and when federal funding is included in the project. However, the PM should consider if the project is located within a Historic District or will impact any house, building, or bridge more than 50 years old, as the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission would likely have interest in such a project. It is also important to identify if the project affects a cemetery, as that can bring a high level of complexity to the project.

Complete Streets
Complete Streets ensure that streets are designed for all users (bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, people of all ages, and those living with disabilities), not just cars. Complete streets make it easy to cross streets, walk to shops, and bike to work.

City Council adopted a Complete Streets Policy in 2014. The policy ensures that multi-modal design elements are automatically considered on new streets or major rehabilitation projects.

The checklist contained within the CIP Statement Form ensures and documents complete streets compliance per the City’s Complete Streets Policy.

Street Lighting
Contact Cedar Rapids Traffic Engineering Division to determine if existing street lighting should be upgraded or if no street lighting exists if street lighting should be added.

Master Plan Review
The City has completed and adopted many plans throughout the years to help maintain and enhance the quality of life in the community for everyone. The findings and recommendations in these plans can be used as tools and resources to guide design decisions related to a specific project. The CIP Statement Form lists many of the plans that should be reviewed as a project is being developed. The checklist includes hyperlinks to the documents.

Other Impacts
The CIP Statement Form generally combines various types of research into groups. Some items do not fall into a group and have been classified as other impacts.

Early identification of utilities can help reduce delays further along in the project. Research franchise and non-franchise utilities, Cedar Rapids Utility and Public Works Departments, and Joint Communications Network for information within the project area regarding transmission, distribution, and service laterals both underground and overhead. It is also helpful to be observant of utility markers during field reviews.

Project Buy-In
Upon completion of the CIP Statement Form, the PM should present the information to their Program Manager. From there, the project will be presented to other impacted divisions and/or departments. If everyone agrees that a project is warranted, they should sign the CIP Statement Form and the project can proceed.

Budget Estimate
With the project need identified, and background information collected, a reliable project budget can be developed. It is important that a total budget be prepared, and not simply a construction budget. Items such as right-of-way and easement acquisition, consulting services, internal costs, and other miscellaneous costs must be included in this figure. The PM will complete a Budget Estimate to determine the total project budget. Once a draft is complete, it should be reviewed with the Program Manager.

The Budget Estimate is contained in the Project Development Guide (PDG).


Construction Costs
The construction costs are typically the largest component of the overall project cost.

At this early planning stage when design decisions are tentative, a detailed estimate is not expected. Instead, the estimate is expected to be a rough estimate, order of magnitude, based on the information known at the time. The PM should use a combination of existing cost data and engineering judgment to develop the cost estimate.

The City maintains a database of bid tabulations from previous jobs. This data can be used as a reference.

Refer to document: BID TAB SUMMARY

Factors to consider when preparing a cost estimate include:

  • What is the economic climate? How “hungry” are the contractors?
  • Will work occur in the summer or winter?
  • Will work be done in a congested area or an easily accessible location?
  • Will road closure be allowed or will the work be required to be completed in multiple, smaller stages?
  • Is it specialty work that few contractors will be bidding on?
  • Is it a project with many subcontractors?
  • Will the work be difficult or easy?
  • Are there unusual site conditions such as high groundwater levels, bad soils, and wetlands?
  • Does the project include piecemeal work items and small quantities with multiple locations? This can result in high unit prices.

Coordinate with the Program Manager for additional information.

Contingency is “a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance.” In construction estimating, contingency is included to account for additional or unexpected costs. At the planning level, a 20% contingency is generally added to the construction estimate.

Estimate of Acquisition Costs
The acquisition of right-of-way can become a significant factor in a project’s overall budget therefore if it is known that acquisition will be needed, those costs should be estimated during planning. Temporary easements are typically paid at 10% of the fair market value of the property per square foot, per year. Compensation for permanent easements depends on the use. For example, it may pay 50% for a utility easement that still allows the use of the property and up to 100% if the homeowner cannot use the area. The fee title is paid at 100% of the fair market value. Contact the Real Estate Services Manager for additional information.

Estimate of Design Costs
During this planning stage, it may be undetermined if the project will be designed in-house or by a consultant. To account for either situation, design costs should be estimated at 15% of the construction costs.

Estimate of Internal Costs
With each project, the City incurs internal costs, including construction administration and inspection. These costs vary from 2% to 6% of the construction costs. The Budget Estimate within the Project Development Guide (PDG) will automatically generate a suggested funding ratio for construction administration and inspection based on the Engineer’s Estimate of Probable Cost. Generally speaking, as construction costs increase, the percentage of overall spending devoted to non-construction costs decreases. The PDG offers the option to override the funding ratio to better reflect the particulars of a project.

Estimate of Miscellaneous Costs
Account for any other known costs at this time such as utility relocations, undergrounding of utilities, street lighting, or others.

Project Number
Once it has been determined to proceed with a project, a project number needs to be established.

Refer to document: SOP – REQUESTING A CIP NUMBER

Determine Design Team – “In-House” or Consultant
At this point, the PM should decide if the project will be completed by City staff or private consultants, solely or jointly. This decision will be based on several factors including staff workload, project difficulty, City staff expertise in the design area, and design timeline.

Consultant Selection
For most projects, the annual statement of General Qualifications which is requested by staff will suffice. For projects with complex issues or that require specialized design services, project-specific Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) should be issued.


Development of Professional Services Agreement
The Professional Services Agreement (“PSA” or “contract”) is the negotiation of the scope, schedule, and fee for Consultant designed projects. The City’s Contracts Division – located within Finance – prepares the contract.

If the PM is unsure if a contract is needed, refer to the document:


Project Team Scoping Meeting
Depending on the complexity of the project, it may be beneficial to have a project team scoping meeting before developing the PSA. The purpose of the meeting is to develop a list of the key issues to the success of the project along with a detailed project scope. A clearly defined project scope allows the development of a reasonable project schedule and a reliable project budget. This meeting shall include all members of the project team – the City PM; representatives from various Public Works divisions including sewer and traffic; acquisition representatives; representatives from other departments, divisions, or agencies; and the Consultant.

The goal of the meeting is to develop a detailed project plan, which provides:

  1. The opportunity to review and verify critical project-related items
  2. Defined scope and schedule
  3. Agreed upon design standards (and revisions to Standards that might apply)
  4. Communications Protocols

Professional Services Agreement
There is a standard template for Public Works PSAs. This template is for contracts with the following parameters:

  • Time & Materials with a not-to-exceed (T&M w/NTE)
  • Non-FEMA
  • Use of the Cedar Rapids Contract Invoice Form (CRCIF) for invoicing

Contact the Project Manager for a copy of this template.

The process for a standard Public Works PSA will take up to 17 working days if less than $50,000. Any additional department cycle time must be considered for contracts greater than $50,000.


The Contracts Division has several more templates for more specific needs. If something else is needed, contact the Contracts Manager. 

Purchase Order
Once the Professional Services Agreement has been executed, the City PM shall send a Purchase Order to their Accounts Payable Specialist. The Purchase Order is a tab in the CRF and PO Request Form.


Document Control and Records Management
Document control and records management procedures should be established as an integral part of the project kickoff. It is much more difficult to implement these systems part way through the execution of the project. Therefore, it is the PM’s responsibility to set up, organize, and maintain these systems during the project.

Project Tracking Software
Project management software is a tool that the City utilizes to help City PMs and project teams meet schedules, manage resources, and track costs. Project tracking for all CIP projects managed by the Public Works Department is to be done using Microsoft Project software.

Projects should be entered into the tracking software as soon as a CIP number is established and a preliminary timeline is identified. Elements and schedules can be changed throughout as the project is updated. Schedules should be updated at least once per month as this information is used to generate reports reviewed by both Public Works Department Managers, contractors, and the public.

City PMs will primarily be tracking projects until turned over to the construction phase. During the construction phase, the Construction Engineering staff will track projects through closeout.


(Updated February 2023)

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