Branson's Road Issues

City Responds to Traffic Jam Stereotype

BRANSON, Mo., Aug. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Community leaders today announced
the launching of an awareness campaign to dispel the perception that Branson,
Missouri has insufficient roads to handle its estimated 7 million annual
visitors. Spurred by a recent study released by AAA and several other agencies
that listed Branson as a top ten summer traffic "bottleneck" destination, the
Branson Chamber has developed the campaign to inform the public about
$240 million worth of new and improved roadways in and around Branson.
While acknowledging the hustle and bustle of Branson's famed Highway 76
(referred to in the study as the major traffic bottleneck) Mike Right, vice
president of AAA Missouri, said the study did not reflect everything that
Branson and the state of Missouri have done to build new roads that have
greatly improved traffic flow. "We had a major conference down there last
year and the ability to get around on some of the new alternate roads was
In the last decade, the City of Branson alone has spent over $40 million
dollars on more than 17 miles of alternate roads. The State of Missouri
Department of Transportation (MoDOT), with the assistance of local agencies,
has invested over $200 million in the construction of the scenic 18-mile Ozark
Mountain Highroad (Highway 465) and the widening to four lanes of 45 miles of
major north-south access corridor Highway 65 from Springfield, Missouri all
the way to the Arkansas state line.
Bob Edwards, public information manager for the MoDOT district office in
Springfield, said his agency has been working closely with local governments
since 1990 to address the increased traffic volume resulting from Branson's
popularity and continuing growth as a tourist destination. "Now, if you know
where you're going, you can get to and around the area very easily," Edwards
Therein lies the challenge. "We realize that while millions of dollars
have been spent on new roads, many visitors don't yet know about them," said
Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson Chamber.
To make sure visitors know about their driving options, the new community
awareness campaign includes the standardization of area maps and the
distribution of an updated Time-Saver map to hotels, restaurants and on the
Branson website ( ). Production is underway on a
video to be shown in Branson's live theatres, touting the red, blue and yellow
traffic relief routes designated by the City of Branson, as is the development
of a program to encourage area service employees to inform visitors about the
time-saving routes.
Many of the town's popular music theaters are located on The Strip, along
with dozens of attractions, retail stores, lodging properties and eateries,
making traffic congestion unavoidable at peak times.
"It's like having a restaurant with a waiting list," Summers said. "It's a
good problem to have because it means everybody wants to eat there."
"The Strip is the epicenter of Branson entertainment and a must-see during
any trip to the area," said Branson Mayor Lou Schaefer, "But it's certainly
not the only route across town."
That was not always the case. In fact, prior to the $240 million in
improvements, Branson gained a world-wide reputation not only for its live
shows, but also for its traffic.
In the early 1990s, Branson experienced tremendous increases in visitor
numbers, from around 2 million in 1990 to more than 5 million in 1994. "At
that time, traffic congestion was a big problem and that image of Branson
still plagues us," Summers said.
"I was down there during the congestion era, and today it's not like that
at all," AAA's Right said. "Branson has taken great strides in improving
traffic flow and everybody needs to be aware of what's happening." AAA has
agreed to distribute the Time-Saver map at all 29 of its offices throughout
the region, he added.
Today, driving on Hwy. 76 is a choice -- one many visitors actually
prefer. "I wouldn't dream of coming to Branson and not driving down The
Strip," said Linda Kesterson of Houston, Texas. "You've got to experience the
excitement, see the marquee lights at least once, and then you can take the
other streets if you're in a hurry."
Branson offers over 100 live shows, the award-winning Silver Dollar City
theme park, over 200 outlet shops, three pristine lakes and a wealth of
outdoor activities, all set in the breathtaking Ozark Mountains.