Department of Transportation

Concept Development

Executive Summary

The Concept Development (CD) Phase may begin with a Problem Statement (Form TP-1) approved by the Capital Program Committee (CPC) and provided to the Division of Project Management (DPM).  The Problem Statement may be validated, redefined, or in some cases invalidated, and in which case, the project may not advance further.

The CD Phase involves drafting a well-defined and well-justified Purpose and Need Statement focusing on the primary transportation need to be addressed. CD Phase elements include, but are not limited to, data collection, coordination with New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Subject Matter Experts/local stakeholders, risk identification, development of a reasonable number of sensible and practical conceptual alternatives and investigation of all aspects of a project. These aspects may include environmental, right of way, access, utilities, design, community involvement, and constructability.

Note: Studies meeting the requirements of Limited Scope will include a subset of the CD Phase elements listed above.

Data collection may include, but is not limited to NJDOT management systems data (e.g., Safety Management System, Bridge Management System, etc.), traffic/crash data, “as-built” plans, environmental screening, review of any concurrent/adjacent projects and other relevant data that would or would not substantiate the project need. Collected data is analyzed and compared to established criteria and standards. Deviations from or deficiencies with criteria are documented and serve as a base for alternatives development.

During the CD Phase, DPM initiates or continues the coordination with internal/external stakeholders, who through their technical expertise or local knowledge of the project area/problem, help analyze and interpret the collected data that can help to clarify the project needs.

A primary task of stakeholders, is to develop “conceptual alternatives” in line with their requirements/guidelines and ranking criteria. Stakeholders are also responsible for identifying possible fatal flaws and selecting the Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA) based on the Purpose and Need Statement. These alternatives and the PPA are analyzed based on major risks, impacts to right of way, the environment, utilities, and the community. Generally, survey/mapping will not be performed during CD, but will be included under the Preliminary Engineering (PE) Phase.


The major objectives of the CD Phase are to identify and compare reasonable alternatives and strategies that address the Purpose and Need Statement and select a PPA.

The CD Phase will provide the information to determine whether or not the study can be advanced to the next phase of the Project Delivery Process and to procure a designer to take the potential project through PE, Final Design (FD) and Construction (CON). The CD Phase provides the framework for advancing the project into the PE phase.


Funding for the CD Phase is generally provided through State Task Order Term Agreements and may involve a federal funding source.

Key Stakeholders

Coordination with Key Stakeholders is as critical in the CD Phase as it is in all other phases. Key internal stakeholders include NJDOT Subject Matter Experts (SME). Key external stakeholders include the affected municipalities, counties and others impacted by the project.

DPM conducts meetings with the external stakeholders to solicit input and brief the officials on the project status. It is essential to start the discussion with the local officials as early as possible in the CD Phase. As the study advances, more meetings should regularly take place to update all the stakeholders and keep them involved in the development of conceptual alternatives.

Meetings with the internal stakeholders or SMEs are called Scope Team/Core Group Meetings. These meetings will introduce the project to the SMEs, obtain information from the various SME groups and start to address concerns from all disciplines. Once the affected disciplines are identified, a Core Group will be formed and members will hear concerns from other disciplines and may recognize that solving one problem may adversely affect another.  The goal of the Core Group members is to consider all input and reach a consensus on the project scope and the PPA.

Conducting scope team/core group meetings is a team effort.  It is critical that all members thoroughly evaluate a project and participate in the CD process.

The following list includes, but is not limited to, possible stakeholders:

Internal Stakeholders (SME)
  • Division of Project Management
  • Division of Community and Constituent Relations
  • Bureau of Structural Engineering
  • Bureau of Traffic Engineering
  • Bureau of Transportation Data and Safety
  • Geometric Solutions Unit
  • Value Engineering Unit
  • Bureau of Quality Management Services
  • Office of Schedule and Budget Management
  • Bureau of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Solutions
  • Office of Stormwater/Stream Encroachment
  • Division of Bridge Engineering and Infrastructure Management
  • Division of Highway and Traffic Design
  • Bureau of Access Design and Right of Way (ROW) Engineering
  • Office of Geotechnical Engineering
  • Pavement and Drainage Management
  • Regional Maintenance Operations
  • Utility Management Unit
  • Bureau of Regional Design and Surveying Services
  • Bureau of Traffic Operations
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
  • Office of Constructability Review
  • Bureau of Commuter and Mobility Strategies (Bicycle and Pedestrian Unit)
  • Risk Management Support Group
External Stakeholders:
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • NJ Department of Environmental Protection
  • State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
  • Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
  • Meadowlands Commission
  • Pinelands Commission
  • Highlands Council
  • D&R Canal Commission
  • Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission
  • Other Authorities (NJ Turnpike Authority, South Jersey Transportation Authority, etc.)
  • Delaware River Port Authority
  • NJ Water Supply Authority
  • US Coast Guard
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Business groups
  • Utility companies
  • Local Officials
  • Elected Officials
  • Affected residents
Phase Initiation

To initiate the CD Phase, the following activities should be completed:

  • Problem Statement identification in the Study and Development Program (description, location, initial problem statement)
  • Field Investigation Report completion
  • CPC approval to advance to CD 
Major Tasks

The major tasks associated with the CD Phase are summarized below:

  • Secure task order consultant
  • Develop CD schedule and budget
  • Identify potential funding source for Preliminary Engineering/Final Design/Construction
  • Perform data collection: traffic/crash data, management systems, utility identification (Utility Contact Letter), etc.
  • Evaluate input and populate risk register
  • Determine project type
  • Complete Environmental Screening. Initiate early coordination with SHPO, if appropriate
  • Prepare Community Profile
  • Prepare CD Public Involvement Action Plan (PIAP)
  • Hold Core Group/FHWA meeting: Identify NJDOT SMEs (internal stakeholders or scope team members), coordinate and meet with them to address the Purpose and Need with respect to safety, capacity, operational improvements, environment and community.
  • Hold Local Officials Meeting: Identify and meet with local officials (external stakeholders) to address the Purpose and Need with respect to safety, capacity, operational improvements, environment and community.
  • Perform analysis of collected data, review data, prepare collision diagram, and other needed engineering analysis.
  • Identify Substandard Design Elements
  • Verify existing problem statement
  • Complete appropriate CD Checklist (Limited Scope Studies only)
  • Perform Alternatives Development/Identify alternatives
  • Perform alternative risk analysis
  • Evaluate conceptual alternatives
  • Assess impacts to ROW, access, utilities and environment (Use Alternative Comparison Matrix)
  • Identify fatal flaws and deficiencies
  • Meet again with core group and local public officials to develop alternatives
  • Identify environmental constraints
  • Identify other project constraints
  • Prepare Utility Risk Assessment Plan
  • Update risk register with identified risks
  • Develop Conceptual Plans for Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA)
  • Conduct constructability review of PPA (effort will vary depending on project)
  • Confirm the environmental document that will be obtained in PE
  • Develop Construction Cost Estimates of various alternatives
  • Determine if design exception(s) may be needed and obtain reasonable assurance of approval
  • Develop PE Scope Statement
  • Prepare CD Report
  • Obtain Resolution of Support document

Efforts to monitor and control the project’s development during the CD Phase include:

  • Establishing and updating the project’s Design Communications Report
  • Providing project background information, progress reports, and important issues and items in NJDOT’s Project Reporting System (PRS)
  • Establishing, tracking and updating the project’s baseline schedule and budget
  • Contract Management efforts, such as reviewing and approving project invoices and accompanying progress reports
  • On-site Monitoring of Design Consultant to review project progress, status of budget, and quality of products
  • Presenting project status at Department meetings, such as 60- to 90-Day Look Ahead Meetings and Pre-Advertisement Meetings
  • Maintaining the project's risk register

The major products for the CD Phase include:

  • Clearly defined Purpose and Need Statement
  • CD Report
  • Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA)
  • Environmental Document Classification
  • Reasonable Assurance of Design Exception Approval
  • Preliminary Engineering Scope Statement to post for Consultant Selection to perform Preliminary Engineering/Final Design/Construction
  • Design Communications Report (DCR)
  • Systems Engineering Review Form (SERF) (If ITS devices are proposed)
  • Utility Risk Assessment Plan
  • Risk Register
Phase Closing

The following items must be completed to leave the CD Phase:

  • Internal NJDOT Task Order Closeout activities
  • Well-defined PE Scope Statement
  • Resolution of Support
  • Purpose and Need Statement
  • FHWA Approval of Concept Development Report
  • Approval of PE Scope Statement
  • Approval of Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA)
  • Establishment of appropriate Environmental Document Classification
  • Placement on Capital Program Screening Committee Agenda and recommendation to the CPC
  • CPC Approval to initiate Preliminary Engineering
  • Posting of Expression of Interest Solicitation for Technical Proposal (when FHWA accepts CD report and PPA)
  • If needed, distribution of final CD report to identified internal/external groups

Some files are in Portable Document Format (PDF) and will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (available at our Adobe Access Page).

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Last updated date: September 22, 2023 3:09 PM