Is Branson's Spirit of 76 Project the largest Complete Streets project in the state? The country? The Universe?

Branson, Missouri, has started work on one of the biggest and most ambitious Complete Streets projects in Missouri--and in the U.S. and the world, as well.

Branson envisions its tourist area as a Complete Street
Branson envisions its tourist area as a Complete Street

Branson's New Spirit of 76 Project will give the Branson "strip"--where theaters and tourist attractions line the street and vie for the attention of 7.5 million visitors annually--a completely new and more attractive look.

For years, Highway 76 through Branson has been a problem and an eyesore in need of a fix.  The area is unwalkable, unbikeable, and--given that it is a national tourism center that attracts millions of out-of-state visitors annually, literally by the busload--about as physically unattractive as possible.

Visitors and tourists are injured and even killed on a regular basis--Highway 76 is that difficult and dangerous for visitors.

Branson is never lacking for vision, however. Incremental improvements along the strip have been moving forward for years--for example the sidewalks and crosswalks you see on Highway 76 today. Local advocates listed Hwy 76 intersection improvements for pedestrians as among the state's High Priority Bicycle/Pedestrian/ADA Project List in 2010.

But several years ago community leaders decided it was time to move the area up a notch. They started working with MoDOT to see what could be done to change the situation. They started exploring a new vision for the area and the options for funding it.

As the project gained momentum, tourism attractions and theaters along the route started to recognize the value of the project.  Not only will the project make their attractions more accessible--literally--to visitors who walk, bicycle, or are disabled, the streetscape project becomes the literal front door to the attractions and theaters.  Because of this dynamic, attractions and businesses along the Highway 76 strip are contributing over $40 million in donated and in-kind additions to the basic $80 million project.

Highway 76 in Branson as it is today, near the Titanic Museum
Highway 76 in Branson as it is today, near the Titanic Museum

That $120 million Complete Streets project is a pretty big one for a rural town of 11,000 that has never before given much thought to pedestrian accessibility! But it makes a lot more sense when you consider that tourism brings $2.8 billion in economic impact to the Branson region annually, and the condition of Highway 76 is honestly so bad and so uninviting that it is literally driving away business.

The new Highway 76 in Branson will be walkable, bikeable, ADA accessible, and welcoming to guest and visitor alike.  A streetcar is part of the conceptual plan. Automobiles will be part of the mix, too, of course--but this is a project build around the needs of visitors, who sometimes drive an automobile, not the needs of automobiles.

Branson is realizing what many cities across the country are realizing--that catering exclusively to automobile traffic drives away residents, visitors, and businesses. By making an area inviting for walking, bicycling, transit, and automobile traffic, the total number of visitors and the "stickiness" of visitors increases dramatically. The experience of visitors and residents with the area is dramatically improved as well.  A street becomes a destination and a place to visit, not just a thoroughfare.

The New Spirit of 76 web site has a lot of information, maps, diagrams, and details.

What are Complete Streets?  Why are they important?

Want to move Complete Streets forward in your town?  It doesn't need to cost $120 million as it does in Branson--but it is just as important to the health and economic vitality of your community as it is to Branson's.

Complete Streets, which make streets accessible to people who walk, bicycle, drive, and use public transit, to user of all ages, and to users at all levels of ability and disability, makes sense for the economy and health of your community, too.

Kudos to Branson city officials, to local leaders and business owners who see the importance of a walk-friendly business district, and to MoDOT, who owns and oversee Highway 76. This is a major project for the city, for the region, for the state, and for the international Complete Streets movement.

Find out more about Complete Streets in Missouri and how your community can implement a Complete Streets Policy on our Missouri Complete Streets page.

 

Working to create a world-class bicycle and pedestrian transportation system in Missouri and to improve safety for all road users, including those who walk and bicycle, are two of the primary goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.

Working to support adoption of Complete Streets policies and projects across Missouri is an important part of that goal.  Missouri has gone from no Complete Streets policies in 2000 to over 30 Complete Streets policies currently in place across the state.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help turn our Vision into reality!

 

 

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