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Scenic byway to link Colo., N.M. railroads

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A proposed scenic byway following the historic route of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, connecting the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad with the Durango & Silverton Railroad got unanimous support on Wednesday from the Colorado State Scenic and Historic Byway Commission, the Pagosa Springs Daily Post reported.

The two railroads, both National Historic Landmarks, are the last two surviving segments of the original narrow gauge rail route that served the mining, logging and ranching industries of the San Juan Mountains, the Daily Post said.

The automobile byway would use existing public roads, and the designation, which is expected to occur in the fall of 2014, would help preserve and promote some of the last surviving remnants of the historic narrow gauge route, the paper reported.

The proposed 110-mile byway would pass through wild country along the San Juan and Navajo rivers and through the lands of the Southern Utes and Jicarilla Apaches, highlighting ghost towns, old railroad structures and scenic vistas, according to the Daily Post.

In New Mexico, the route would go from Chama to Dulce on U.S. 64 for 44 miles, then from Dulce to the state line for 10 miles on Jicarilla 9.

In Colorado, the byway would go from the state line to Navajo Reservoir on Archuleta County Road 500 for 25 miles; from the reservoir to Ignacio on Colorado State Highway 151 for about 20 miles; from Ignacio to Oxford on Colorado State Highway 172 for 10 miles; and then a short distance into Durango.

The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and has funded 3,174 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.