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Collins Avenue will soon reopen in Surfside.  City engineer warns he could collapse

With nearly all of the debris removed from the Surfside condo collapse, the beachfront city expects Collins Avenue to reopen around the site of the former Champlain Towers South complex soon. This caused another concern: Can the excavated condominium site still support the adjacent road?

The engineer hired by Surfside to study structural risks after the June 24 collapse recently warned the city and county of Miami-Dade that Collins could collapse into a void caused by a collapse in the hollowed out foundation of the Champlain Towers .

“If the wall were to collapse or rotate significantly, the soil retained under the street and the sidewalk could move with it,” Allyn Kilsheimer, an engineer with offices in Washington, DC, said in a letter Thursday to Surfside and Miami-Dade. This move “could cause portions of the street to collapse and could seriously compromise public services below the street …”

The Champlain Towers, a risk for Collins Avenue?

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade said the county was rushing to bring in teams to shore up the remaining underground walls in response to Kilsheimer’s letter. “We are in the process of looking for a company to shoring and bracing the walls to ensure there is no risk,” said Rachel Johnson, county communications director.

A photo of the debris-cleared Champlain Towers South site submitted by Surfside engineering consultant Allyn Kilsheimer in a letter to Miami-Dade County warning that nearby Collins Avenue could fail if the dug underground walls fail collapsed. Miami-Dade said it was rushing to shore up the walls. Collins remains closed to pedestrian and automobile traffic.

Collins, the main barrier island artery that includes Surfside and Miami Beach, has been closed to traffic around the Champlain Towers since the June 24 collapse. Miami-Dade said this week that the debris field was virtually cleared around the building, and Kilsheimer’s letter includes footage showing the basement foundation of the collapsed structure surrounded by walls ending at street level.

In an interview, Kilsheimer, who works under a Surfside contract, said he was told Collins could reopen this weekend. Charles Burkett, Mayor of Surfside, said Thursday he could not share a specific goal for Collins’ reopening. “The best I can tell you is: we believe in it very soon,” he said.

Kilsheimer said the concern was that the underground walls of the Champlain Towers no longer had the support of floors at street level. Heavy rains would greatly increase the risk.

Kilsheimer’s short-term recommendation is to close the Collins lane closest to the Champlain site, an action he said he heard was part of the plan to reopen, anyway. His letter recommends that Miami-Dade use earth to create an underground berm on the Champlain site in order to consolidate the walls closest to the street and the sidewalk.

“They have to move traffic and people away from that wall about 15 feet … If the wall fails it, it will just fall into the hole and no one will be hurt,” said Kilsheimer, of KCE Structural Engineers. “If you want to make sure the wall doesn’t break down, you go over there and pile up some dirt.

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