South Sound News

Business owner frustrated over light rail construction in Tacoma's Stadium District

TACOMA, Wash. — Steven Salmone has been an outspoken critic of the construction going on outside his pizza shop in Tacoma's Stadium District.

“Have a look,” he said as he gestured to temporary no-parking signs outside Salmone’s Pizza at the corner of North 1st Street and Tacoma Avenue. “There’s no parking here on this side of the street.”

He turned to point around the corner, adding: “They’ve torn this street up four times. This is the fourth time they’ve dug up this street. And they’re coming back to do it again!”

It's not simply a frustrating inconvenience, according to Salmone. It's costing him money in a restaurant working to establish a customer base in its first year of operation.

And Salmone is not alone.

Across the street, the Harvester, a restaurant that's been around for more than four decades, has been forced to cut its hours, closing at 3 p.m. instead of midnight five nights a week. Management said that's because customers frustrated with the ongoing street closures, detours and parking restrictions just go eat somewhere else.

That means fewer hours and less pay for employees, too.

“Yes, we have multiple staff members that used to work here full-time and now they’re unable to work here full-time,” said manager Jennifer Ploof.

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The construction is part of the ongoing expansion of Tacoma's Link Light Rail. It now runs from the Tacoma Dome to the north end of downtown. The new line will connect the light rail to the Stadium District, then to the city's Hilltop neighborhood. But all that work won't be completed until 2022, a long, frustrating wait for business owners and customers.

Franco Marchio, owner of Franco the Tailor, has been in the Stadium District for 55 years and said he’s had customers who can’t get to his shop.

“They say 'Hey Franco, I went around the block twice to come in and get a suit or fix a suit for me, but there is no parking,'” Marchio said.

Business owners like Salmone want relief, money to help make up for lost customers and cash. But Sound Transit spokesman Scott Thompson told KIRO 7 the agency isn't allowed to do that.

“It’s actually a violation of state law,” said Thompson. “It’s considered a gift of public funds, and it’s a violation of the state constitution.”

Work laying tracks by Stadium High School is scheduled to be complete before school starts in September, offering some relief to the neighborhood. But it will take months before construction on the new light rail line moves farther south onto Martin Luther King Way.