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 fantastic.”
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 said.
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 ( http://explorebranson.com/ ). 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. Visitors can call 1-800-214-3661 or log on to http://www.explorebranson.com/ for a free Branson Vacation Guide and Time-Saver map.
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