The cars and trucks kept coming in ever-increasing numbers down the street where Wayne Henderson lives--Edwards Ferry Road in Leesburg. Over the years, he has kept track of the annoyances: speeders, even drivers who passed other cars where it clearly isn't allowed.
The computer consultant was convinced that the volume of traffic was more than the residential street was designed to handle and that the speeding vehicles posed hazards to pedestrians as well as other drivers. Last summer, he rented a radar gun and set out to record the facts.
After he clocked cars traveling as fast as 52 mph in a 25-mph zone, Henderson and a loosely organized group of his neighbors persuaded the Leesburg Town Council to install two all-way stop signs on Edwards Ferry at its intersections with Woodberry Road and Catoctin Circle. The stop signs will be in place for a 120-day trial period that began Aug. 17.
But Henderson and his neighbors are not alone in stewing about drivers intent on slicing a few minutes or a few miles from their trips. Traffic activists are popping up throughout Loudoun County, in the small towns of the west and the expanding subdivisions of the east.
Harried residents from Lincoln to Cascades are arguing that they are the ones who suffer when streets that were designed primarily for residential use become cross-town thoroughfares or cut-throughs to major roads. The culprit, they say, is the surging population and inevitable congestion that comes from being the third fastest-growing county in the country.
"We've been working with a number of communities," said Terri Laycock, assistant to the county administrator. "We're trying to address some safety improvements in their neighborhoods. . . . Oftentimes, they're experiencing problems with cut-through traffic, speeding, that kind of thing."
People who live on such streets are requesting--and often receiving--additional stop signs and lower speed limits, if only temporarily, while local officials try to settle on a permanent solution. Local law enforcement has been helping, these residents say, by stepping up patrols on the targeted streets.
In Waterford and Lincoln, residents have lobbied for $200 fines for drivers caught speeding, Laycock said.
In Cascades, residents are organizing an effort to install all-way stop signs at busy intersections on Hampshire Station, a popular cut-through route for people going to Sugarland Elementary School and Potomac Falls High School.
"Personally, I think it would be a lot safer if the four-way stops were there," said Melody Lesane, 39, a mother of two who has watched traffic steadily increase in her seven years in the neighborhood. "I wouldn't worry as much about the safety of my children."
In Richland Acres, Dominion View and Richland Forest, residents are working with officials on traffic-calming measures, including all-way stop signs.
John Bischoff, a member of the board of directors of the Richland Forest homeowners association, said his community is working on getting stop signs on Augusta Drive, where he said speeding is rampant.
"It's straight, it's flat and it's four lanes," Bischoff said. "The problem is it goes right through the middle of our subdivision."
Some of the worst offenders, people familiar with the issue say, are residents themselves because they use the streets the most.
As often as not, residents are the ones who wind up with a ticket after speed limits are lowered or new stop signs are installed, said Loudoun County Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run), who has worked with residents on several such projects.
McWatters said that although he is willing to "support a proposal" to the Virginia Department of Transportation, he usually cautions residents about the downside.
"One thing you have to consider is that you'll probably have the biggest effect on local residents," McWatters said. "You have some people say, 'I don't want that because they'll get me [with a traffic ticket] two times a day.' "
Henderson and his neighbor Liz Whiting said that they considered the effect of the two additional stop signs on residents of Edwards Ferry Road and that the traffic-calming measures came out ahead. They said that reducing the speed of traffic and diverting nonresidential traffic to "commercial" streets overrules concerns about residents getting traffic tickets.
"We're aware of that, and we're willing to take the heat ourselves," said Whiting, who moved to the street in 1980 and raised her two children there. "Hey, I've gotten passed on our street. I'd rather have the possibility of tickets than that kind of threat."
Town traffic engineer Calvin Grow is collecting residents' comments and analyzing traffic counts taken daily.
CAPTION: Neighbors Liz Whiting and Wayne Henderson stand in front of new stop sign.