Innovation at the Crossroads: Exploring the Intersection of Innovation Adoption and Specification Reform in Public Highway Construction

The condition of the United States’ highway system is deteriorating, with only 50% of roads in good condition, according to a recent report by AASHTO. The problem impacts not only state transportation budgets, but also individual motorists who spend on average $355 annually on vehicle maintenance resulting from poor road conditions. One of the primary avenues for relieving this problem is technology innovation to deliver faster, cheaper, and higher-quality road construction. However, the public road construction sector is inertially bound, being slow to seek and adopt innovative technologies. This paper seeks to understand the innovation diffusion process in the highway construction sector in the context of a particular kind of policy innovation: specification reform. Oftentimes innovations are incongruent with current specifications, thereby requiring alteration of existing specifications prior to adoption. Using a case study approach, the authors follow the adoption of intelligent compaction (IC), a specific soil compaction quality assurance (QA) technology that requires specification reform in order to be implemented. With this research, they hope to characterize the following components of policy reform: key players; critical resources; personality traits; causal relationships and processes; and pathways to innovation adoption. To guide this analysis, the authors leverage Kingdon’s theory of public policy agenda setting. They begin with a description of IC, followed by a section explaining highway construction specifications and the organizational structure of this industry. Additionally, they detail the formal process by which specifications are changed. The third section reviews Kingdon’s policy agenda setting theory in the context of highway construction specification reform. The fourth section discusses the methodology and analysis underlying this study. The final section discusses insights gained through the application of Kingdon’s framework to the key people and processes that have played a part in the diffusion of IC.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References;
  • Pagination: pp 9-18
  • Monograph Title: Geotechnical Research Deployment: How Organizations Encourage Innovation: Lessons Learned. Presentations from the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, January 14, 2014, Washington, D.C.
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01578219
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Oct 19 2015 10:38AM