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11-05-2021 Open Access

Perceived risk of lock-in in the front-end phase of major transportation projects

Chantal C. Cantarelli, David Oglethorpe, Bert van Wee
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Lock-in is defined as the tendency to continue with an inefficient decision or project proposal. The front-end phase is critical to project success, yet most studies have focused on lock-in in the implementation phase. Moreover, little is known about the way in which decision-makers perceive the risk of lock-in. In this paper we identify determinants of lock-in in the front-end phase and we reveal decision-makers’ perceptions of risk of lock-in. Our findings show that risk attitudes towards lock-in vary with the level of risk aversion. However, this is not sufficiently acute to drive the level of regret needed to avoid lock-in. This implies that decision-makers do not accurately assess the risk of lock-in and as such their risk perceptions are a mediating factor in the formation of lock-in. Based on escalation of commitment, path dependency, and prospect theory, the main contribution lies in providing a more comprehensive understanding of lock-in in the front-end phase.
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