California Department of Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 I. What is Value Analysis (VA)?
 II. When is a VA study Required?
 III. What defines a Project?
 IV. What defines a Bridge Project?
 V. What if the project is funded by a Local Agency/Transit Agency?
 VI What if a VA study was not performed on a required project?
 VII. At what stage should VA studies by performed?
 VIII. What are the steps in the VA job plan?
How long is a typical VA study?
How do I justify a shorter study?
Who pays for the VA study?
Why should a Local Agency consider Caltrans as team members?
How do I get more information about VA/VE?

What is Value Analysis (VA)?

Value Analysis/ Value Engineering is a function-oriented, systematic team approach, used to analyze and improve value in a project, product, or process. It is a powerful methodology for solving problems and/or reducing costs while improving performance/quality requirements.

When is a VA Study Required?

Federal law requires that all Federal aid projects on the NHS with a total cost (Construction, Right of Way, and Support) of $50 million or more must have a VA study conducted prior to construction.  In addition, all Bridge Projects over $40 million are required. 

There are no exceptions to this mandate.  At the risk of losing future federal funding, it is recommended that VA studies be performed for projects over $15 million.

See Chapter 19 of the Project Development Procedures manual (PDPM) for more details.

What defines the Project?

The project is defined by the Environmental Document (ED).  It may consist of several construction contracts or phases.  Corridor studies, which involve several ED’s, must be approved by FHWA.   If the VA Team studies the entire corridor, studies are typically justified.

What defines a Bridge Project?

A bridge project is one whose main scope is the bridge (e.g. Bridge replacement or build new bridge).  Interchange projects do not meet this criterion although a bridge might be built. As defined by federal regulations a bridge is a structure over a depression or an obstruction, such as water, highway, or railway, and having an opening measured along the center of the roadway of more than 20 feet. 

What if the Project is funded by a Local/Transit agency?

Federal law only requires a VA study for Federally aided projects. However, Caltrans encourages the use of VA when feasible. History has shown great success when applied correctly. Also, many Locally funded projects request Federal funds late in the design stage or for construction. If requested, FHWA will require the VA study if it meets the mandate.

What if a VA study was not performed on a required project?

The Department is not in compliance with federal law and is at risk of losing federal funding for this or other NHS projects.  Also, at Ready to List (RTL), federal compliance is certified.  If not in compliance, the project is at risk to not meet its schedule.

At what stage should VA studies be performed?

Caltrans has had many successes in all stages of project development, but have found the best results early.  History has shown, to maximize the implementation rates and cost savings of the study, it should be performed before the signing of the environmental document (ED).  Just prior to the Draft ED date is best.   

FHWA mandates that studies be performed before Ready to List (RTL). VA studies in Construction do not meet the Federal mandate.

What are the steps in the VA job plan?

The VA job plan is divided into three separate meetings; a Pre-study Meeting, a Workshop, and an Implementation Meeting.  The job plan is designed to perform a VA Study efficiently and effectively.  Each meeting is designed to have a specific outcome.  They can be broken down as follows:

  1. Pre-Study Meeting (typically 4hrs) - Initiate Study, Organize Study, and Prepare Data for the VA team
  2. Workshop (typically 6 Days) - Inform Team, Analyze Functions, Create Ideas, Evaluate Ideas, Develop Alternatives, Critique Alternatives, and Present Alternatives
  3. Implementation Meeting - Assess Alternatives, Resolve Conditionally Accepted Alternatives, and Publish Results

For more information, take a look at the VA Activities Chart. It has a more detailed explanation of each step in the VA Process.


How long is a typical VA study?

The VA process consists of a 40-hour Workshop which has been pre-approved by FHWA.  The time it takes to accomplish the Workshop depends on the complexity of the project.  For a typical project (over $50 mil), it may take over the 40 hour prescribed.  Typically in Caltrans, we spread the workshop over two weeks.  Two three-day sessions (Tues-Thur) are typically scheduled for good reasons.    This allows team members to do their normal job (Mon and Fri) and also allows for a mid-point review of the team’s progress.  Between sessions, ideas are evaluated by Technical Reviewer/SME to find any fatal flaws, and/or time is used to research ideas.

Although the times are typical, at the discretion of the Team Leader and management, the study may be shortened if the workshop is progressing rapidly.

How do I justify a shorter study?

Some less complicated projects (e.g. CAPM) may justify a shortened study.  Because of the format of the VA process, the minimum workshop length is 24 hours (3-days).  One day studies do not meet the FHWA requirement.  In cooperation with the District VA Coordinator (DVAC), a “Modified Job plan justification” form may be filled out and sent to the HQ VA program manager.  If the VA program manager feels that the study is within compliance of the law, the shortened study will be granted.

Although staff time is saved, the Team Leader cost of a 3-day study is about the same as a 5-day study.  Because of the extra time it takes the team leader to prepare the presentation by the 3rd day.  For this reason, it is recommended that the Presentation section of the workshop be scheduled for either the 4th day or better yet, the following week.

Who pays for the VA Study?

Depends on the Project Sponsor:

First, we need to define the Sponsor.  The SPONSOR is any PARTNER that accepts the responsibility to establish scope of PROJECT and the obligation to secure financial resources to fund PROJECT. SPONSOR is responsible for adjusting the PROJECT scope to match committed funds or securing additional funds to fully fund the PROJECT scope. If a PROJECT has more than one SPONSOR, funding adjustments will be made by percentage (as outlined in Responsibilities). Scope adjustments must be developed through the project development process and must be approved by CALTRANS as the owner/operator of the SHS.

For Caltrans sponsored projects, the Team Leader cost will be paid by the HQ VA Program,  at no cost to the project, and the team member support cost will be funded as a project’s support cost.  Typical Caltrans VA studies resource about 500 hours of staff time.

For Local Agency sponsored projects, the cost of the VA study will be paid by the Local Agency.  Caltrans can participate as VA team members on a reimbursed basis (through a co-op agreement) or CALTRANS may participate at no cost to the project providing appropriate funds are programmed to cover the support costs. 

The levels of support include:

Full Participation:  Caltrans supplies the entire team of Subject Matter Experts (SME) to participate as full time Team Members.  This would include several SME from various functional units depending on the study scope.  These members would be actively developing alternatives and participating in the entire 40 hour workshop.  Typical Caltrans VA studies resource about 500 hours of staff time.  This work would be considered as “reimbursable” work.

Part-time Participation:  Caltrans supplies just one or two Subject Matter Experts (SME) to participate as full time Team Members.   These members would be actively developing alternatives and participating in the entire 40 hour workshop.  This work would be considered as “reimbursable” work.

Stakeholder and Decision Making Participation:  Caltrans would not participate as full time Team Members.   These members would be attending pre and post meetings (Kick-off and presentation phases), perform technical reviews on alternatives, review for federal compliance, and make recommendations for acceptance or rejection of alternatives. This participation would be considered as a project’s Independent Quality Assurance (IQA) at no cost to the project.   

Why should a Local Agency consider Caltrans as team members?

This is really a project specific question.  At the discretion of the Project Manager, Caltrans Management and Local Agency officials, the level of participation should be agreed upon during the planning phase of the project.  Depending upon the issues and complexity of the project, Caltrans team members may or may not be needed for the VA study.  

There are several advantages to having Caltrans team members involved in the study.  Advantages include: streamlining the review process, use of expert highway design professionals familiar with the Caltrans policies and procedures, designs that conform to the existing and planned highway system, increased number of alternatives that meet Caltrans standards, policies and procedures, greater chance for Caltrans buy-in of VA alternatives, and streamlining the project delivery process.

How do I get more information about VA/VE?

There are many websites and manuals about VA/VE.  See FHWA and SAVE International’s websites.   and

This page last updated September 25, 2013