Branson Explores Funding Options for Spirit of 76 Project

BRANSON, Mo. -- The City of Branson is looking at new funding options for the "Spirit of 76" project, after MoDOT’s transportation tax was shot down by voters.

The city was set to received roughly $13 million for the project, which was considered a high priority in the southwest district.

The $80 million project would transform a five-mile stretch of Hwy. 76 into a pedestrian friendly corridor, encouraging visitors to walk from business to business while taking in the sights in sounds.

Lost Treasure and Dinosaur Canyon Mini Golf General Manger Fred Davis says he already seeing a shift in that direction.

"[People walking more] seems to have moved over the years," says Davis. "And our wonderful neighbors at Ripley's Believe It or Not have an empty lot next to them that a lot of folks park in, and walk to both destinations."

Davis says despite possibly having to move equipment for the wider sidewalks, he sees the Spirit of 76 project as a step in the right direction, helping to freshen up the area following the Leap Day tornado.

"We replaced an airplane that was torn down," says Davis. "Unfortunately for some of the businesses that got taken out some were able to rebuild, other's weren't."

Before the City can go forward with the project, that was recently approved in a resolution, it has to decide how to fund it.

"Certainly however it gets funded it will determine schedule of delivery and the time frames," says Project Manager Sabin Yanez.

Yanez says new funding options include a tax benefit district that would create a constant revenue stream.

Other options, he says, include levying city revenue streams for a loan from MoDOT, or using a loan from the US Department of Transportation that comes with a low interest rate.

"[It would] move the project forward and still leave enough money in the coffers for capital improvement projects," Yanez says.

Yanez says in addition to giving Hwy. 76 a face lift, it would also help encourage growth in the area.

"We're already hearing interest, outside, who are seeing the master plan being approved by the board," says Yanez.

Fred Davis says while he hasn't seen the rendering himself, he hopes the Board of Aldermen will chose and option that is best for both businesses and residents.

"And our Aldermen do that," says Davis. "Change is never openly-armed embraced, it's accepted and then you just make your adjustment.. We'll do the same."

Yanez says the goal isn't necessarily for the Board of Aldermen to chose a specific funding option right away.

He says his team will go into the community to get feedback on the funding options, and then present those results to the city.

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