Understanding the driving factors of cost overrun in highway infrastructure projects: a review of existing methodological approach

Abba Tahir Mahmud, Stephen Ogunlana, W. T. Hong, Ibrahim, Y. Wuni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Highway infrastructural projects are important to the socio-economic development of most of the emerging countries, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Jordan etc. However, due to the over-reliance on highways as a major means of transportation, partly due to the inefficiencies of other modes of transportation, countries make significant investment and commitment in the provision of
highway infrastructure to the prevailing significant deficits. Albeit intertwined with the progress of any country, these projects are beset with manifold implementation challenges. One such challenges is delivering the projects within contractual budgets due to numerous attributable factors such as changes in scope and delay in progress of work etc. This study is aimed at examining the existing methodological approaches used in understanding the drivers of cost
overrun in highway projects and assess whether an alternative approach such as system thinking which considers the complex and dynamic characteristics of cost overrun triggers can be utilized, using secondary data in form of systematic review of existing literature. A total of 29 papers that fulfilled our inclusion criteria were reviewed. The findings revealed the utilization of different empirical approaches and analysis methods in the studies of the subject matter. Questionnaires survey (48.3%) was found to be the primary approach used to examine the subject matter while Index analysis method (55%) was the predominant data analysis technique. This paper contributes to and enhances the existing methodological approach used in assessing the drivers of cost overrun in highway construction projects. The potential impact of this study will provoke a debate towards using an approach that considers the complex and dynamic characteristics of the drivers, thus aiding in the assessment and better understanding of cost overrun triggers in highway construction projects. The paper will finally recommend the use of system thinking approach to evaluate the drivers of cost overrun and simultaneously propose the key strategies for improving cost performance for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-34
JournalMalaysian Construction Research Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Complex
  • Cost overrun
  • Dynamic
  • Emerging country
  • Highway infrastructure
  • System thinking

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