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Convicts built many state highways

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation History – January 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Cañon City contributed much, in both labor and materials, to early highway construction in Colorado. The labor came from convicts at the state penitentiary, who were put to work on roads from 1905 until 1926, when the practice was abolished.

The materials — lime, gravel, stone — came from a hillside quarry, still quite visible behind Old Max on the west side of Cañon City.

Among the roads built by convicts were the route from Pueblo to Leadville (1919), from Colorado Springs to Leadville, Cañon City to the Royal Gorge (1911), and the Front Range roads up Big Thompson and St. Vrain canyons.

Colorado at one time led the nation in the use of convict labor to build highways, and in 1919 it was also one of the first four states to adopt a gasoline tax — 1 cent per gallon — to fund highways.