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Restaurateur blames Tacoma Link construction for killing sales

The construction of the Tacoma Link light rail expansion is right in front of Salamone's Pizza. (KIRO 7)

Steven Salamone, owner of Salamone’s Pizzeria in Tacoma’s Stadium District, serves up plenty of pepperoni and sausage on his pizzas — but his beef is with Sound Transit’s Tacoma Link.

The Tacoma Link light rail project, which was approved by voters in 2008 as part of ST2, will extend the existing Tacoma Dome/Theater District line through the Stadium District to Hilltop. It is scheduled to open in 2022.

But according to Salamone, the construction from the new rail line is killing business for entrepreneurs like him — and he says that the benefits are not worth it.

“We didn’t vote for this, it was overwhelmingly rejected here in Pierce County, it was King County that pushed it through — but now we’re suffering the consequences in having this light rail put through our neighborhood,” Salamone said on KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show.

U District business struggle with construction, some say city has been no help

Nearly all of the nearby parking spots are taken by construction vehicles, or by the personal vehicles of construction workers. He said he has had to park his delivery vehicle four blocks away from the restaurant.

Salamone opened up his doors last August. While his menu, the visibility, online access, and delivery service have all just expanded since then, his recent monthly sales have been $10,000 to $15,000 under those early months. He can only attribute it to the construction.

He is not against light rail, but he wants to see ridership data that would prove the extension is worth it before breaking ground. He suggested running a bus line along the route first to get a feel for how many people would use transit to get to Hilltop.

“I worked on Wall Street for years, and where I come from, if I wanted to do something, I had to make a business case for it,” he said.

He predicts the ridership at just eight to 10 people per hour, and is even considering putting up a betting pool in the restaurant so customers can make their own guesses.

For Salamone, Sound Transit amounts to nothing less than a “criminal organization.”

“It’s extortion, it’s fascist,” he said. “It just forces this stuff on us, no matter what we want.”

Scott Thompson, a public information officer for Sound Transit, said that the agency’s community outreach team is “talking with [the impacted] business owners on a daily basis.” Through its Loyal to the Local program, Sound Transit promotes the affected shops and restaurants online to help generate business amidst the construction.

“We’re working very hard to make sure that people know they’re open, that they can still get there to be patrons of those businesses … We’re doing the best we can,” Thompson said. “We are working diligently with the business owners to keep them informed.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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