Branson’s Highroad – a functional traffic relief artery or a hiking and biking trail?

Recently the Ole Seagull sat in a meeting where the actual plans for the four laning of Highway 65 to the Arkansas State Line were displayed and discussed. That meeting in conjunction with other publicly available information convinces him that that project is in fact underway and will continue as a priority.

Said another way, what should have been the priority in the mid ninety’s has finally become the priority. Oh, that we could go back in time and change some of the decisions that were made but we can’t, either as individuals or as a community. The reality of the situation is what it is.

And the reality is that as of Sep. 11, 2005, Highway 65 is in the process of being four laned, south, to Arkansas State Line and over $60 million has been spent on the Ozarks Mountain Highroad, State Highway 465, to have it dead end at State Highway 76. It doesn’t for one iota change what should have been done in the mid ninety’s or, more appropriately, what shouldn’t have been done, but it is today’s reality.

And what a beautiful scenic reality it is, a four lane highway that, as currently constructed, would be of more value to Branson as a hiking and bike trail or a permanent home for the Branson Area Festival of Lights, than as a traffic relief artery. It currently has exits only at Highways 248 and 76. Both exits are miles away from Branson’s core of activity and its alternate traffic relief routes.

Those taking the Highroad to Highway 248 and exiting back into Branson will be traveling on a dangerous twisty two lane road. Even more ridiculous is the fact that when they have done all that, they will be at the same point they could have gotten to quicker and more safely if they had simply gone to the Highway 248 exit in Branson and headed west, access to Branson’s excellent system of alternate routes at James Epps Road, Gretna Road, or the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.

Currently, those that don’t exit on Highway 248 are forced to exit it at Highway 76 west of Branson’s strip. They then travel back into Branson on a two lane road that was designed and built decades ago to handle the traffic of that era.

If the Highroad was extended to the junction of Highways 165 and 265 it would enable our community, and the taxpayers of Missouri, to at least gain some benefit from the $60 million plus dollars that have been spent on it thus far. The two additional exits would give Branson’s visitors convenient and efficient entry to, and exit from, Branson through its west side while providing almost immediate access to the west end of Branson’s Yellow and Red alternate traffic relief routes.

On just about any Sunday, during the season, Highway 76 is backed up for miles with people leaving Branson via Highway 65. A Highroad interchange at Highway 376, and to a lesser extent, the junction of Highways 165 and 265, just north of Table Rock Dam, would relieve this congestion by providing an alternate to Highway 76 for the extremely large percentage of Branson’s visitors leaving Branson via Highway 65 to the north.

In view of the fact that at least part of an interchange has been stubbed out at the junction of Highways 165 and 265 it would seem to make sense to extend the Highroad that far. This would provide a direct route to the Dam area of Table Rock Lake, a loop back into Branson via Highway 165 and provide easy access to the Highroad for this relatively densely populated area.

For some time there has been a move to extend the Highroad to its junction with State Highway 376. Given the current reality of the situation, particularly the priority that the state is giving to the four laning of Highway 65 to the Arkansas State Line, the Ole Seagull thinks that it makes sense for the community to support the extension of the Highroad not only to Highway 376 but to the junction of Highway 165 and 265 just north of Table Rock Dam.

Although there is no justifying the priority given to the Highroad originally or they way it came into being, comparatively speaking, by spending “a few more dollars” Branson and its visitors can at least get some functional use out of it. The alternative would appear to be a $60 million plus investment that has more value to Branson as a potential bike and hiking trail or as a permanent place to hold the Branson Area Festival of Lights than as a traffic relief artery