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Our curious systems of county road numbers

Brief by Central Staff

Roads – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

We don’t spend nearly as much time as we should on the back roads of Central Colorado, but even at that, we have noticed that our counties number roads differently.

Saguache County uses the most logical system. East-west roads start with Road A at the south county line, work north through Z, then go to AA, BB, etc. until the county ends at Poncha Pass. These numbers are for section-line roads a mile apart; interim roads get numbers like “BB.5.” Similarly, north-south roads start with 1 on the west and work east, mile-by-mile, to 71. Diagonals are tied to the grid with numbers like “LL-51.”

In other words, it’s relatively easy to navigate by road numbers in Saguache County.

Our other counties aren’t nearly as sensible. In Chaffee County, the roads are usually 3-digit numbers. They start with 1 around Salida (i.e., County Road 120) and 3 around Buena Vista, with the 200’s in between. Branches can be something like “County Road 268-G.” There doesn’t seem to be much other order in the system.

For years we’ve thought it would make an interesting article if we called all the county road departments for particulars on their road-numbering methods, but we’ve never gotten around to it.

However, there is a compilation of some county road information on the Internet at link. From it, we learn that Alamosa and Costilla counties are quite rational in assigning road numbers, whereas for Frémont and Gunnison, there is “No known system for placing road numbers, which are 1, 2, or 3 digits. Road numbers appear to be placed at random throughout county.”

We also note that as rural areas incur development, road numbers often change to road names; that is, “Backwater County Road 217” becomes something like “Alpine Vista Lane.”