After years of construction, Tacoma’s Hilltop Link light rail station opening Saturday

TACOMA, Wash. — After years of construction, Tacoma’s Hilltop Link light rail station is due to open and start running on Saturday.

For parts of the city that dealt with construction related to the project, the fact that the light rail is running is a bit of relief coupled with some enthusiasm and anticipation.

The Stadium District, home to Tacoma’s Thriftway grocery, was one of the areas that saw heavy construction and work on the narrow North First Street. People living in that area who frequent the Thriftway were often dodging construction whether they were walking or driving.

Dennis Fisher lives and works in the district. He said the construction wasn’t ideal.

“It was a little bit of a hassle if I’m being honest,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Ty Cline, the Thriftway’s store director.

“It’s been a little bit of a hassle. You had a lot of construction going on right in front of our parking lot,” Cline said.

Both are now speaking in favor of the light rail that’s set to start running this weekend. Fisher, who works at a local hair salon, knows the construction hurt business, so he hopes a running light rail will help.

“I have high hopes for it. I have a few clients talk about how instead of trying to find parking, they’ll take this Link instead of trying to find a spot, so we’ll see,” said Fisher.

In 2019, when streets were torn up for the project, KIRO 7 spoke to several Tacoma residents and business owners about the project. The feelings at that time were very different.

Steve Salmone, of Salmone’s Pizza, said the road work for the project cost him.

“In July (2019), I’m down $23,000, versus last year,” he said.

Several businesses suffered, Tacoma’s Thriftway included, but Thriftway’s Cline says light rail could give them a lift now.

“We are hopeful that it is, there’s a lot of anticipation, waiting eagerly to see what it can provide for us, so I’m excited for the city and I’m excited for the store,” said Cline.

The 2.4-mile extension includes seven new stations. The ultimate goal is linking Tacoma’s light rail to Federal Way so a person, theoretically, could get on the light rail in Tacoma’s Stadium District and ride it all the way to Seattle.

Cline knows the work created pain, but it was in the name of progress.

“We made it through that. We’re looking forward to having the light rail run,” said Cline.

The new stations include:

  • St. Joseph (Martin Luther King Jr. Way, south of South 17th St.)
  • Hilltop District (South 11th and M.L.K. Way)
  • 6th Avenue (at M.L.K. Way)
  • Tacoma General (M.L.K Way at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital)
  • Stadium District (North 1st St. at North G St.)
  • South 4th (at South Stadium Way)
  • Old City Hall Station (Commerce St. north of South 7th St.)

“Connecting more of Tacoma to our transit network, the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension represents another step toward building a truly regional rail system, giving people flexibility as they travel for work, school and everyday activities,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“Tacoma is so excited to see the opening of the much-anticipated Hilltop Link and we can’t wait for everyone in Tacoma to have an opportunity to ride,” said Sound Transit Board member and Tacoma Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker. “I look forward to celebrating a more accessible city and region, connecting to local transit, and to supporting our local businesses that have stuck with us through construction.”

“The opening of the T-Link Hilltop extension marks the first of a series of light rail openings scheduled over the next several years that will connect more people within their local communities and the greater Puget Sound region,” said Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm. “Sound Transit is proud of and thankful for the local teamwork and regional partnerships that continuously collaborate to build and operate our regional mobility network.”

Comments on this article