By Don Love
The first miners and ranchers in Colorado’s mountain country depended on the rough roads that connected them to each other and to the world beyond. Popular interpretations of western history hold that railroads, which came to the mountain country in the 1880s, gave the region an economic boost that wagon roads had failed to completely exploit.
But the mountain West never could be confined to the routes and schedules that made the rails such a progressive force in much of Gilded Age America. The mountain west traveled a more independent road, and even before the advent of the automobile, a Chaffee County rancher and politician paved the way to a modern highway system. This month, we recognize the accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson Ehrhart, who, 100 years ago, helped establish the agency we know today as the Colorado Department of Transportation.