Roanoke police educate drivers about busy crossing along Amtrak path

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Amtrak will officially launch its passenger rail service in Roanoke October 31, but police are worried motorists who drive near the railroad tracks aren't prepared.

They're trying to raise awareness about issues at one particular intersection.

"I live in Vinton so I drive either through here or downtown daily, and it is really rare to stop here (for a train)," said Lieutenant Jennings Tardy of the Roanoke Police Department.

Tardy said he's concerned motorists won't stop for crossing lights along Campbell Avenue when Amtrak starts service.

Drivers are already ignoring the test runs.

We met Tardy at 11:30 Wednesday morning to talk about the problem, not realizing a train was just around the corner.

"Oh wait," Tardy exclaimed during our interview.

A few seconds later, the lights went on but cars kept driving.

After a few cars blew through the intersection, Tardy started flagging them down to stop.

"It concerns me because if you're in a normal size vehicle and you get hit by a train it's not fair, you're not going to win," Tardy said. "The train is going to win 100% of the time."

There are two railroad crossings on the same block of Campbell Avenue where Tardy is raising concerns. The first has a gate, the second only lights.

Tardy worries people simply aren't accustomed to stopping along the road and may not see the warning lights.

"If you see the lights blinking, you need to stop," Tardy said.

VDOT does have money to add extra warning measures, but they would need to be requested by city leaders.

Police say right now, if they see drivers crossing the tracks along Campbell Avenue while a train is approaching, they're flagging them down and giving out warnings.