Branson, Mo. Popularity has a price, as officials of this music-happy town and the motorists who pack its roads each year have come to learn.
As tourism has shot up, from 3.8 million visitors in 1989 to an estimated 7 million this year, Branson has experienced traffic congestion and occasional gridlock on a scale more befitting a big city than an Ozarks outpost.
"It's one of those things we can't even joke about," said Claudia Vecchio, the spokeswoman for the Branson-Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.
But relief is in the works. Four major road projects are on the drawing board, with work on one already under way.
During the next two years, the city will add turn lanes at several intersections, and it will straighten and widen a street with a severe curve. Branson also will build two street extensions that will provide new north-south arteries.
Those projects are in addition to the improvements the city has made in the past decade, including new streets, at a cost of $40 million.
One key artery, Missouri 76, will get new turn lanes and better signs, but a substantial widening cannot be done because the road is built into a hillside and is lined with businesses.