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Police warning Roanoke drivers about soon-to-be Amtrak railroad crossings

Some drivers ignoring flashing lights at crossings

ROANOKE, Va. – Just over a month away from Amtrak launching rail service in Roanoke, police are voicing some major concerns about how drivers will handle the increased traffic.

They're stepping up patrols and talking to drivers to try to get this message out before the first train leaves the Star City on Halloween.

"Some drivers don't realize Amtrak is coming to Roanoke, and that's the people we really want to reach because they won't be looking for the trains," Roanoke police Sgt. Claude Collins said.

As construction chugs along on the railway, Roanoke police officers are focusing on the changes it will bring to the road.

"Handing out flyers to address drivers and let them know some of the concerns that Amtrak has for their tracks," Collins said.

Those concerns center on drivers who aren't used to seeing trains on these tracks ignoring them.

"We have done driver awareness at these locations with warnings and citations to some drivers that have completely disregarded the barricades and the crossings," Collins said.

The main issue is the types of warnings at those crossings.

"We have two or three major crossings there that have no arms that guard those crossings," Collins said.

Several crossings along Campbell Avenue only have flashing lights.

"The ones with no arms they will just refuse to look at the lights because they'll be looking down or looking at something else, drive through the tracks and be struck by a slow-moving train," Collins said.

It's something drivers are worried about too.

"Their biggest concerns are school buses, family vans, larger vehicles being struck by trains," Collins said.

As Amtrak continues test runs through the area to get ready to launch full service, police say they're continuing their efforts to make sure everyone stays safe on the rails and on the roads.

"It’s hard to stop a train. A train running at full speed takes a mile to stop," Collins said.

Officers are also going through training on railroad safety with Amtrak. They say they'll continue increased patrols for at least a month after service begins.