Gov. Gina Raimondo's position statement came as a welcome surprise to dozens of protestors gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday.
Residents and lawmakers had crammed into the Statehouse rotunda to protest federal plans to move rail infrastructure in parts of Charlestown and Westerly. Then, Charlestown Town Councilor Virginia Lee told the crowd the governor agreed with them.
Laying new track is part of the federal Northeast Corridor Expansion project, which would expand rail capacity and speed up trips from Boston to Washington, D.C. Raimondo said she still supports the plan to expand high speed rail through Providence.
But the governor is taking sides with protestors who expressed concerns that one section of new track would have too large an impact on protected green space and private property.
Charlestown resident and member of the Narragansett Tribe, Loren Spears, said the railway, as proposed, would cut through tribal lands.
“For the Narragansett Tribe, really sovereignty was at stake. When you are crossing tribal lands without the permission of tribal government or tribal people then you are breaking sovereignty laws,” said Spears.
Charlestown resident Kim Coulter said the rail proposal runs through her cattle farm.
“We would have been out of business,” said Coulter. “The train would have divided the farm right down the middle leaving all of the rest of the land unusable. So our farm, our heritage, would have been gone.”
With the governor on their side, opponents of the plan said they will now petition the state’s congressional delegation to pursue changes with the Federal Railroad Administration.