Project delays happen, but when it comes to completing municipal projects on budget, time is money. Unforeseen circumstances and poor planning often leave contractors and project owners frustrated by missed deadlines and cost increases. Some delays are unavoidable and beyond the project owner’s control, however, sound planning, budgeting for contingencies, timely decision making, and comprehensive contract documents can minimize the frequency and severity of project delays.


At the beginning of the project development stage, it’s important to establish a reasonable project schedule. This process requires a thorough understanding of potential project challenges and limitations, including:

  • Permits and approvals

  • Site availability

  • Current bidding climate

  • Prevailing weather conditions

  • Contractor availability

  • Construction progress

Reducing the construction window increases the risk of project delays, which is why it’s necessary for project owners to carefully consider feasible completion deadlines.


Contract documents should always include:

  • Substantial and final completion deadlines

  • The definition of those deadlines

  • Consequences if deadlines are not met

If unavoidable delays present themselves, any changes to the project deadline requirements must be approved by all parties as a change order to the contract.


Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. uses contract documents prepared by the Engineer’s Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC). The EJCDC is a joint venture of three major organizations of professional engineers who have for over 40 years developed and updated fair and objective standard documents representing the latest and best thinking in contractual relations between all parties involved in construction projects.

In our contracts, project deadlines and consequences are found in the Agreement section of the project manual. The definition of the deadlines, which tell the contractor what it will take to successfully achieve them, are found in the General Conditions and Supplementary Conditions sections of the project manual.

Many construction projects require milestone deadlines somewhere within the construction window for completion of certain portions of the project. Information about the milestone deadlines are found in the same project manual sections as substantial and final deadlines. Additional details about more complicated milestone deadlines can also be provided in a special section within the General Requirements of the project manual. Setting well thought out and realistic milestone deadlines can reduce the risk of delays in achieving substantial and final completion deadlines because they help identify that the contractor is making sufficient progress throughout the construction window.


Our team has used the EJCDC contract documents on most of our construction projects over the past 40 years. The documents are fair, objective, well known by our repeat clients and well known by the contracting community. We have run into many different situations where the potential for delays and cost increases have occurred. When this happens, we evaluate the unique circumstances that surround each situation and know how to apply the conditions of the contract. This experience limits the exposure that owners can face when these situations arise.

To learn more about how R/M can help you navigate your contracts, please contact an expert today!

About the Author

Anothony D. Peterson, P.E.

Anthony D. Peterson, P.E. 
Senior Project Manager

Andy's experience includes managing projects through planning, design and construction phases. Andy has successfully completed projects that include elements such as site grading, erosion control, traffic control, water main extensions, sanitary sewer extensions, sanitary force mains, storm water collection and detention facilities, hydraulic modeling, parking lots, pavements, pavement markings and site restoration. 

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