At the 25th annual Highway Engineering Conference in 1952, Roderick L. Downing was acclaimed "Father of the Boulder-Denver Turnpike" and was presented with a scroll reading: "Your friends and associates endorse this memorial to your vision concerning this highway, your initiative in presenting the basic plans with consummate engineering skill to the appointed authorities and your continuous cooperation with the authorities in pursuing the project to a successful conclusion."
Downing had conceived the shortcut highway as a surveying project for his students back in 1929. He planned it in detail and fought for its construction over a period of twenty years. He might also have been named father of the Highway Engineering conference sponsored by the University of Colorado, a conference which he helped to found in 1927. He served as chairman of this now-traditional meeting of regional highway engineers until his retirement in 1960.
A graduate of the Class of 1914, Downing returned to the College of Engineering in 1926 as instructor of civil engineering and earned his professional degree in 1929. He served on the department faculty for thirty-four years. Professor Downing became president of the Colorado section of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1938, was a member of the governor's Highway Planning Commission in 1950, and served on the Boulder Planning commission for sixteen years.
During the Second World War Rod Downing was appointed by the president of the University as institutional representative to the wartime extension program, which offered training to meet the manpower demands of the defense effort. As a member of the state highway advisory board for three years, he introduced the plan for the present Boulder-Longmont Diagonal highway.
Today at 75, Rod Downing leads an active life of "retirement." Since 1960 he has served a three-year term as director of the Educational Division of the American Road Builders' Association, and is still registered as a professional engineer in the State of Colorado. He lives in the "planned community" of Broomfield where there are "no through streets in the residential areas, and no traffic lights."