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Study foresees little impact from ice rink

An independent traffic and parking study on the projected impact of a nearly $9 million proposed ice rink in East Aurora shows no village parking or traffic bottlenecks caused by the twin-rink facility eyed for Riley Street.

A study by the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council predicts that the rink could generate about 60 car trips in and out during the weekday afternoon peak hour. That amount represents about half of the vehicle trips (126) for the same time of day for Tim Hortons coffee shop on Oakwood Avenue, according to the study.

"The intersections will not fail or deteriorate" because of the rink, said Stephen Szopinski, the council's principal transportation analyst. He noted there would not be any additional parking or traffic problems caused by rink traffic. "This is an accessible site and walkable."

Aurora Ice Association's planned 68,000-square-foot facility -- calling for two NHL-sized rinks and 130 parking spots on the 3.3-acre site is to be called Time Warner Cable Ice Center. Organizers say it would tap the Southtowns area and is envisioned to be much more than just a hockey facility. It also would offer public skating, figure skating and other events.
The rink is projected to draw 150,000 patrons annually, and supporters say it will provide an economic boost to village merchants at a slow period of the year.

"Parking and traffic don't seem to be valid concerns based on the independent study commissioned by the village," said association President Anthony DiFilippo IV. "We really think Riley Street is a perfect location."

The projected yearly vehicle trips to the rink are 171,600, compared with 866,825 for Tim Hortons, while trips to Vidler's Five & Dime are pegged at about 213,333; and 44,444 for the Aurora Theatre, the study found. The council said it was not paid by the ice association nor the village to do the analysis.

"We feel there's more than adequate parking to meet the needs of this facility," said Michael Tehan, vice president of the nonprofit ice association.
In addition, about 6,800 parking spots are available throughout the village, the transportation council said. There are currently 181 on-street parking spaces and 884 off-street parking spots within a three-minute walk of the rink, though some of them are for private or business use only. During peak Saturday hours for parking, about 150 on-and-off-street spaces are available within a three-minute walk or less of the proposed facility.

Village Trustee Kevin Biggs, who grew up in Clarence and remembers long drives to play at area hockey rinks, lauded the idea of an ice rink in the village. "I've played hockey my whole life. You have cars in and out, and it's not that crazy," he said Tuesday. "Other than four or five tournaments a year, I can't see it being that insane of a traffic problem."
Residents for Rink Location, a group of about 100 village residents including former Mayor John Pagliaccio, continues to question the project's feasibility and argue against the Riley Street location. The critics argue that the rink lacks sufficient parking, which could impact established businesses, and that it raises safety issues by increased traffic congestion and pedestrian safety.

The village now must decide whether the proposal requires more significant environmental study under the state environmental quality review standards. That process could take 20 days, or likely longer, said attorney Ray Stapell, the village-hired special counsel on the project.


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