Have You Driven Down the Oldest Road in the State of Colorado?
The state of Colorado did not build its first paved road until the year 1916. One of the first paved roads anywhere in America is credited to the town of Bellefontaine, Ohio. A paved road was completed past the courthouse in 1893, and this is generally accepted as the first paved street in America.
In Colorado, we had 'improved vehicle roads' which meant dirt, gravel, and sometimes boards underneath it all. This was the way Colorado's Taylor State Road was constructed in 1902 from Denver to Grand Junction (via Glenwood Canyon).
The First Paved Roads in Colorado
The oldest paved road in the state of Colorado is located between Denver and Littleton, Colorado. This road was the first paved surface in Colorado and was constructed in 1916 after the Federal Aid Road Act began the Federal Aid Primary system for funding roadways. Today we know this road from Denver to Littleton as Santa Fe Drive or U.S. 85. It was built at the cost of almost $75,000.
Colorado's Original Six
The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 created 5 other paved surfaces in addition to the first paved road on Santa Fe Drive. These roads included:
- I-25/US 85 from Pueblo to Trinidad
- US 24 from Granite to Twin Lakes
- US 13 from Rifle to Meeker
- SH 145 from Placerville to Norwood
- US 287/385 from Lamar to Springfield
Building Colorado's First Paved Roads
Beginning in 1905, Colorado decided that it would rely on convict labor to construct paved roads and state highways. Convicts would have to load up lime, gravel, and stone from behind the state prison in Canon City. They used these materials in places like the road to Royal Gorge, Big Thompson Canyon, and on roads from Pueblo and Colorado Springs to Leadville. Colorado ended the practice of using convicts in 1926. After this, Colorado became one of the first states to charge a gas tax to fund roads. This tax started out at $.01 per gallon. How the times have changed.