For some drivers, by the time you're able to see this directional sign for the Springfield-Branson National Airport, you might already be stuck in the wrong lane. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

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OPINION|

Years ago a reader by the name of Leo Smith contacted me to say he thought the green directional signs pointing drivers to the Springfield-Branson National Airport were confusing.

I never wrote about it because I did not personally think the signs were confusing. But now that I think about it, I realize I did not consider his point from the perspective of someone visiting Springfield.

If you live here and often go the airport, you don't think twice about airport directional signs. You don't need them.

But Springfield is growing, attracting more visitors, and the airport is bustling and busier.

A line of travelers waiting to access a TSA checkpoint demonstrates the need for an updated master plan.
A line of travelers waiting to access a TSA checkpoint demonstrates the need for an updated master plan. (Photo provided by Springfield-Branson National Airport)

Here's what else happened to convince me to write about this.

On Saturday, June 8, I was driving to a wedding and I saw a couple of the directional signs en route, and I mentioned to my wife Leo's conclusion that they were confusing.

My wife agreed with Leo. She said they easily could be confusing to a newcomer.

Leo's main point was that the signs have an image of an airplane on them, and that the plane's nose is always at the top of the sign. Therefore, he said, they can be interpreted as meaning to go straight if headed to the airport.

Some of the airport signs — like the two on northbound West Bypass at Chestnut Expressway — have directional arrows pointing left (west) underneath the image of the airplane.

In essence, the question I'm raising is whether this (actual) sign:

At the intersection of I-44 and Airport Boulevard, there is a post with two signs directing a person to the Springfield-Branson National Airport. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

... is more confusing than the sign below? We edited this photo to make the airplane horizontal, as if pointing in the same direction as the arrow.

A photo of a directional sign to an airport edited so that the nose of the aircraft points in the same direction as the directional arrow. (Photo and illustration by Shannon Cay)

My wife said that from a distance, a driver might only see the top of the actual sign — the plane and not the arrow — and mistakenly think that if the nose of the airplane is pointing straight ahead you need to proceed straight to get to the airport.

Placement of signs at West Bypass and Chestnut Expressway could be better

I think I'm like a lot of people in that I go north on West Bypass and turn left (west) on Chestnut Expressway to get to the airport.

Two airport directional signs are there. One is some 60 yards prior to the intersection. I think it's poorly placed because it's on the right (east side) of West Bypass.

At the intersection of West Bypass and Chestnut Expressway there are five lanes — two left-turn lanes (heading to the airport), two through lanes, and one right-turn lane.

This airport directional sign is along the West Bypass, on the east side, some 60 yards south of the Chestnut Expressway. The two left-turn lanes are three lanes over to the left. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

The sign at this location, 60 yards before Divison, should either be bigger and elevated higher, or placed on the concrete island near the two left-turn lands. On the right side of the road, it's too easy to miss.

This is the second airport directional sign at the intersection of northbound West Bypass and the Chestnut Expressway. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

The second directional sign at West Bypass and Chestnut is at the intersection, with the traffic signals. For many visitors, I'm guessing, by the time you see it you're already in the wrong lane. A more prominent sign is needed.

Signs handled by MoDOT, not airport

Kent Boyd, spokesman for the airport, tells me the airport directional signs are under the purview of the Missouri Department of Transportation. He personally has never had anyone complain to him that the directional signs are confusing.

But being a former spokesperson for MoDOT, Boyd tells me, there is a thick rule book for what traffic signs must look like across the nation. It's called the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.”

If you're looking for summer reading, it's 1,113 pages. That should be good through the summer of 2026.

David Mitchell, a spokesman with MoDOT, says that the airport directional sign is a standard highway sign used nationwide as directed by the Federal Highway Administration in the just-mentioned Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Mitchell is unaware of anyone ever complaining to MoDOT that the directional signs to the Springfield-Branson National Airport were confusing.

Wasn't there a directional sign at Division, too?

It seems to me that for years there was also a green directional sign to the airport at northbound West Bypass and Division Street.

I sometimes take Division west to the airport.

In fact, I thought for sure a sign was there on Saturday, June 8.

Yet it's not there today. In fact, I drove by three times looking for it and did not find it.

I'm not sure if the directional sign at Division was damaged and is soon to be replaced, or if it was deliberately removed to encourage drivers to take Chestnut Expressway to the airport.

Regardless, taking Division Street west is also a perfectly fine way to get to the airport.

If you take Chestnut Expressway, you will pass the Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town and its big Las Vegas-style neon sign.

There is signage galore at the intersection of the Chestnut Expressway and Airport Boulevard, but it's not for the airport. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

I've heard it said that if the lights at the airport ever fail at night, the Sports Town sign should enable pilots to see and reach the airport.

If you take Division Street to the airport you get to see the new Greene County Jail, but you won't get to see sign for the Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town. (Steve Pokin photo)

If, on the other hand, you take Division Street west, you will pass our new Greene County Jail, which opened in 2022. Division Street is also a direct route to the airport, but be careful about picking up hitchhikers.

This is Pokin Around column No. 192.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Hauxeda. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@hauxeda.com. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin