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BRANSON, Mo., June 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/
-- Visitors who remember Branson, Missouri, in the early 1990s might have a hard time believing they are in the same tourism town today.
The town that used to be synonymous with traffic jams now confidently promotes its new roads and new routes. Its most famous roadway, the Highway 76 "Strip," appears much as it did when national and international news media discovered Branson's unmatched entertainment industry about 15 years ago.
As they have for years, the Strip's three lanes carry visitors to the dozens of entertainment venues, theme parks, lakes, golf courses, family attractions, shopping areas and a vast array of restaurants and hotels.
The difference is the speed and convenience of traveling from point A to point B.
The legendary Branson traffic jams are really a thing of the past.
Traffic that used to proceed at a crawl now flows quickly enough to plan a time of arrival, yet slowly enough to enjoy the sights.
A network of side roads, most just over the hill from the Strip, provides convenient access to locations on and off the main drag.
"Over the past 15 or so years, the City of Branson has invested more than $40 million to build or rebuild about 18 miles of roads," said Ross Summers, president of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"These roads are in addition to the improvements made by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
When our tourism industry was launched from regional to national status, improving traffic flow became the top priority.
The new roads allowed us to designate 'colored routes' to make it easier for visitors to reach specific destinations on and off Highway 76.
It's been one of our most successful promotions."
"Colored routes" lead the way to attractions
The colored routes were created by the Chamber/CVB's Transportation Committee from a program that began as the "Branson Roads Scholar" promotion.
An advisory group of local and regional professionals representing business and government volunteered their time and imaginations to help visitors to find their way more easily around Branson.
The Blue Route begins at Highway 76 and Roark Valley Road and parallels Highway 76 just to the north.
It meets Gretna Road and takes motorists westward to Highway 76 at Highway 165.
The Red Route is designated from North Business Highway 65 in downtown Branson. North Business 65 becomes Highway 248 and then turns westward on the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, ending at the intersection with the Highway 76 "Strip."
The Red Route roughly parallels Highway 76 slightly further north than the Blue Route.
The Yellow Route begins on Fall Creek Road off Highway 76 and parallels 76 to the south. From Fall Creek Road, the Yellow Route turns north briefly on Wildwood Drive, then west on Green Mountain Drive.
It ends at Highway 376 just off Highway 76.
New signage is being designed for the colored routes, and maps are available at many locations in Branson.
The colored routes map can also be viewed on the Chamber/CVB's website at http://www.explorebranson.com/docs/Chamber_Map.pdf.
Branson attracts cars like a magnet
It's no surprise that a tourism community that attracts motorists like a magnet should also attract collections of cars. In the past several years, Branson has become the site of several major automobile-oriented events.
New this season, the Hemmings Branson Vintage Car Rally will be held June 11-15.
Dozens of vehicles, none more recent than 1948 models, will compete for $60,000 in prizes in a five-day, 200-mile rally that demands precise attention to time, speed and distance.
Each day, the rally sends drivers and their antique vehicles in a different direction with "checkpoints" along the way.
The goal is to reach each checkpoint at the "perfect" time.
Residents in a large portion of the Ozarks will have an opportunity to see the rally participants. "Lunch with the Cars" stops are planned in
-- Rogers, Ark. on June 11 with stops in Cassville, Mo., and Eureka
-- Clinton, Mo., on June 12 with stops in Bolivar, Collins and Wheatland,
-- Springfield, Mo., on June 13 with stops in Aurora and Crane, Mo.;
-- Lebanon, Mo., on June 14 with two stops in Marshfield; and
-- Harrison, Ark., on June 15 with stops in Green Forest and Yellville,
-- The rally begins and ends each day at the host hotel, the Hilton
Promenade at Branson Landing.