TransAmerica Trail/USBR 76: First U.S. National Bicycle Route in Missouri officially designated and signed

New signs have gone up marking U.S. Bicycle Route 76, theTransAmerica Trail, through Missouri. 

US Bicycle Route 76 - TransAmerica Trail signs installed
US Bicycle Route 76 - TransAmerica Trail signs installed

The route is over 300 miles long and passes through the southern third of Missouri.  The Missouri section is part of a national bicycle route has been used since 1976 when it was created as part of the BikeCentennial.

For more than a decade, MoBikeFed and Adventure Cycling have been working with MoDOT to update the route and permanently identify and mark it with signs. The project was identified as one of the High Priority Statewide Bike, Ped, and ADA Projects for Missouri in 2010 and ranked 10th highest out of nearly 300 projects on the list.

Earlier this year, MoDOT Nonmotorized Transportation Engineer Ron Effland received word that his grant application to fund installation of the signs had been approved. He completed the application to officially include the segment in the new U.S. National Bicycle Route System, and that application was granted in May 2013.

Now the signs have gone up across the state.

The project is one of 22 from the High Priority List that have moved forward, and one of six that is now completed.

How the new signs help cyclists

Effland, who lives in Springfield, which is just south of the USBR76/TransAmerica Trail route, has been talking with some of the approximately 1000 cross-country cyclists who use the route every year:

I have talked with several cyclists to ask how the signs looked and if they were a help.  Most have said they don't need a map in Missouri any longer because the signs are at each turn now.  That was not the case before the signs.  A good map was required to stay on route before the signs went up. 

He gave just one example of the way the signs can help the cross-country cyclists:

National Bicycle Routes Across Missouri - click for full-sized map
National Bicycle Routes Across Missouri - click for full-sized map

I talked with a couple of guys from Canada in Ash Grove one day.  They said they really appreciated the USBR signs in Missouri because they had missed a turn in eastern Missouri.  They rode over 8 miles off the route before they realized their mistake.  Fortunately, a local was there to give them a ride back up the steep hills to get them back on the route.  They were very thankful for the signing effort that we had in place at that time because they were able to put down their maps for a while and just ride.

Improving the reputation of Missouri's section of the TransAmerica Trail

The reputation of the section of the TransAmerica Trail through Missouri has historically not been good among cyclists.  That is one reason MoBikeFed and cyclists, organizations, and municipalities along the route have been pushing MoDOT to improve, sign, and officially recognize the route.  Official recognition and signs helps cyclists stay on the route and helps prevent cyclist harassment.  

The official recognition and designation also opens the way to higher priority for future improvements on these routes, such as adding shoulders. This is especially important at a time when Missouri officials are planning how to spend a proposed new $8 billion in transportation funding over the next 10 years.

What is the U.S. Bicycle Route System?

The Adventure Cycling Association, in partnership with many local and state partners across the U.S. like MoBikeFed, has been working to develop and promote the new U.S. Bicycle Route system. 

The vision for the system is a nationwide network of officially recognized and designed bicycle route that meet nationwide standards and provide for a continuous and seamless travel experience for bicycle tourists and long-distance travelers.

In short, the system is something like a interstate freeway system for cyclists and when complete will be the largest official cycling route network in the world.

You can find out more about the U.S. Bicycle Route system on the Adventure Cycling web site.  The National Corridor Map shows the central place Missouri's network of cross-state routes plays in the plan. It also shows the newly added section of the TransAmerica Trail through southern Missouri.

What's next--Route 66?  

MoDOT is looking to officially designate and sign at least one more of Missouri's six cross-country bicycle routes in the near future.  The most promising candidate is likely the Route 66 Bicycle Route--one of the most beautiful bicycle routes across Missouri and one that would garner immediate attention in the world of Route 66 aficionados.  

Other possibilities are the Mississippi River Trail, the Lewis & Clark Trail, or Adventure Cycling's Great Rivers Route.

See maps and information about all cross-state and cross-country bicycle routes through Missouri is available on our maps and routes page.

Huge thanks goes to MoDOT for making these projects possible!

Note: USBR 76 is not the first cross state route to be marked and signed in Missouri.  That distinction goes to the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), which was signed in the mid 2000s.  However, Missouri's section of the MRT has not been adopted into the U.S. Bicycle Route System yet. The MRT and Route 66 Bicycle Route are the next likely candidates for incorporation into the US Bicycle Route System in Missouri.

Promoting and improving Missouri's six national bicycle routes and other bicycle routes across the state is an important part of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Projects like the 22 projects moving forward from the Missouri High Priority List--representing over $15 million in investment in biking and walking facilities--are the end result of decades of work, lobbying in Jefferson City, building relationships with decision makers, and applying pressure to government agencies. Your support and membership of MoBikeFed makes it happen!

 US Bicycle Route 76 - TransAmerica Trail signs installed

US Bicycle Route 76 - TransAmerica Trail signs installed


Photo credits: Ron Effland, MoDOT