Alert system to help Lakeland drivers avoid being trapped at railroad crossing

New technology is being used in downtown Lakeland to help drivers avoid getting stuck at railroad crossings.

The Florida Department of Transportation showed off its Intelligent Rail Bypass System Thursday. The alert system uses light-up signs to warn drivers a train is about to cross Florida Avenue. It also points drivers in the direction of an alternate route.

"In a very real sense, it is choice. You have the opportunity to make a different decision or stay on course," said FDOT spokesperson Brian Rick.

It costs nearly $900,000 and is the first of its kind in Florida. Final testing of the system wrapped up Thursday. 

"First responders are going to be the major beneficiaries," said Rick.  

FOX 13 spoke to several drivers in Lakeland, who said they're glad to have the option to avoid long wait times.

"I think that's perfect otherwise I'd be stuck behind trains all the time," said Christina Arns.

The signs will officially be in use on Friday. FDOT says other places around the state are watching closely and considering installing the same system.