THE ROUTE 24 BYPASS
With the long-awaited completion and opening of the new Route 24 bypass around Waterville finally taking place on August 28, 2012 it is interesting to look back on the history of this highway. Who could have imagined it would take so long?!
In 1961 the State highway department presented plans to relocate U.S.24 from Maumee to Napoleon. A map of the proposed relocation was printed in The Blade showing the alignment between Waterville and Whitehouse roughly where it is today.
The Anthony Wayne Trail which was completed to Waterville in the 1950s when the old Miami and Erie Canal was drained and filled in, would be for local traffic and access to the park system along the river.
Then began the first of many studies by ODOT. The Waterville bypass would be completed by 1970! Instead a bypass of Defiance and Napoleon were completed and their old Route 24 became a scenic byway in 1968. In 1969 ODOT said the bypass around Waterville would be completed sometime in the 1980s and until then a widening of the road from Maumee through Waterville would alleviate congestion.
A Waterville citizens' group was formed to protest the widening of the road through the village and reducing the four lanes to two at State Route 64, creating a bottleneck and safety hazard and further delay the construction of the bypass. This was at a time when the elementary school was on River Road and many children west of the Trail walked to school. US 24 was widened from Maumee to Dutch Road and not through the village in 1976.
The 1980s to 2000 saw increased traffic and many accidents including fatalities. The Fort to Port Improvement Organizations was formed in the 1980s and got support from communities along the highway's 77 miles for a new highway. In 2000 a Waterville "SMART" group was formed and became very active. (Safety Means Alternative Route Twenty-four) Then an opposing group formed: FARMUP. (Farming Americans Resisting More Unneeded Pavement) They urged improving the route rather than widening or building a bypass. ODOT began holding public meetings presenting various alignments for a new road having less detrimental impact and involving fewer residential and business relocations. After three years of construction the Route 24 bypass is completed. Waterville has become a destination city for visitors and a pleasant and safer place to live.
The Wakeman Archives contains the long and contentious, dangerous history of the road, including letters to and from ODOT officials, mayors, governors, congressmen, etc., news clippings of accidents, editorials and letters to the editor as well as petitions, maps and Fort to Port records. Thanks to all who made it happen.