Beware: Motorists who are shaving off a few minutes of their drive by taking a shortcut from Algonkian Parkway to Route 7 in Sterling will be facing an additional $200 fine for speeding in a 25 mph zone.
"In other words, you get a ticket, you add a $200 fine to that," said Don Patin, state Department of Transportation engineer for Loudoun County. He said smaller signs signaling the hefty fine would be installed on the speed limit signs within the next three weeks.
Residents have petitioned twice to slow the traffic down. Coming off speed limits of 55 mph, the motorists are ignoring the 25 mph limits on Thomas Avenue, Lakeland Drive and Cedar Road in the wooded Richland Acres subdivision.
"It's a safety issue for the entire county," said Karen Sweet, who lives on Cedar Road. "People are going to get killed. I mean, they are going to get killed."
Chip Taylor, assistant director of Transportation Services, said a study of road traffic from Nov. 4-8, 2003 showed the percentage of drivers exceeding the speed limit was 74.9 percent on Thomas Avenue, 67.9 percent on Lakeland Drive and 31.6 percent on Cedar Road.
The average speeds were three to 10 miles per hour over the 25 mph limit, he said. There were motorists exceeding the speed limit by a lot more than that, but they were the exception, not the rule. "The teenage boy at 2 a.m.," he said. "You'll get that on any street even though it's so over the design characteristics of the road, it's not funny."
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS recently moved to ask VDOT to install $200 speed fines on the three roads. Mick Staton (R-Sugarland) said he is exploring other solutions. "We're asking VDOT to study all the streets and Route 7," he said. "It will give us a better idea about what to do."
"We call it the Indie 500," Sweet said. Her children, ages 8 and 5, cannot ride bicycles, and there is little room for walking on the narrow, windy roadways. "You have to be ready to go in the gutter or the ditch, because people literally will run you off the road," she said. "There are so many blind spots."
If pedestrians aren't in the ditch, cars are, she added.
Dominion High School students were jogging on the roads five deep last fall, she said. "I was afraid they were going to get wiped out and not know what even hit them."
Someone warned the athletic director, and the jogging stopped.
Sweet's neighbor, Sharon Hollenbeck, said she wants police enforcement. In addition to tickets, speed bumps should be installed, she said. Closing Thomas Avenue is another alternative, but that would be inconvenient for residents, she said.
She is tired of footing the bill for motorists who have run into her retaining wall and over the bank of her lawn, she said. "They're really flying."
M. Alan, who lives on Thomas Avenue, said he would like to see police issuing more tickets. "We're very mad about it," he said. "They are speeding, because there is nobody to check them and the road is wide open."
Gary Stopa of Cedar Road said he signed the petition to persuade authorities to slow the vehicles. "This is a very old neighborhood. We've been trying for years to eliminate the cut-through traffic," he said. "We've been working with the county and VDOT."
MOTORISTS BELIEVE Richland Acres is the shortest way from Lowes Island and Cascades to Route 7, but the state built the Algonkian Parkway as the direct route, he said.
Taylor said the traffic study showed the "cut through" traffic or vehicles using the roads as a shortcut did not meet VDOT standards for a program that would provide a solution. There were an average of 93 trips made in one direction in one hour, he said. VDOT requires 40 percent or more of the total or a minimum of 150 trips.
Patin said roads that meet the "cut through" guidelines could be closed to motorists during peak hours.
The average daily traffic on Thomas Avenue was 1,328 vehicles, on Lakeland Drive, 1,170, and Cedar Road, 270, Taylor said.
Staton, chairman of the board's Transportation Committee, said he would favor construction of a road parallel to Route 7 to relieve the traffic woes. "I don't know even if it is possible," he said. "Route 7 is a problem that has plagued people for many years and I'm doing my best to solve it."
Sweet said Loudoun has to recognize its rapid growth has consequences. "With them continuing to build more and more homes, our transportation infrastructure cannot handle this anymore," she said. "We can't even walk to the grocery store at the end of the street."