Paseo Puerta de Tierra

The College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CIAPR, Spanish initials) affirmed on Thursday before the House Committee on Economic Development and Planning that the coastline that comprises the Paseo Puerta de Tierra in San Juan is not a safe area for pedestrians or surrounding highways due to the imminent danger of collapse due to a landslide.

Engineer Félix Rivera Arroyo, who attended an ocular hearing in the affected area on behalf of CIAPR last Monday, made his remarks in the middle of the first public hearing to discuss House Resolution 242.

The measure, authored by Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz, orders the House committee to carry out an investigation into the needs of the residents of San Juan, Aguas Buenas, Bayamón, Cataño, and Guaynabo.

Among the first issues under investigation is the pedestrian promenade, inaugurated in 2016 with an investment of $32 million. “From what we all saw there, I am not an engineer, and just looking at it I know it is poorly built. You have certified him as an engineer," said Torres, chair of the committee.

Meanwhile, Rivera indicated on more than one occasion that the terrain is "completely unstable" and explained that, to avoid further erosion, a diversion should be established for the runoff waters caused in times of rain. He reported that the structure is built between 20 to 30 feet from the sea, so it is located within the maritime-terrestrial zone.

“The first thing they teach us in engineering is that the greatest enemy of any construction is the sea and the water. We have to get completely away from that maritime-terrestrial zone. It is a very dangerous area," he explained.

Less than a month before the official start of the hurricane season, Rivera also assured that the structure would not withstand the impact of a future cyclone. If a landslide occurs, the roads that are part of the coastline would be compromised, he added.

The CIAPR delivered to the House committee a presentation signed by its president, Juan Alicea Flores, who recommended that the emergency protocol be implemented in the affected area immediately. The first step should be to delimit the affected area, label it and prohibit citizen approach. Likewise, a 24-hour surveillance service must be coordinated.

"Immediate measures must be taken to control the continuation of landslides, in which geotechnical ground studies are carried out, among others, to determine the possible causes of the landslide and measures to stabilize the slope permanently are recommended," Alicea wrote, adding that "energy dissipaters, such as rocks, should be included at the foot of the slope immediately."

Moreover, the CIAPR underscored that the agency responsible for the pedestrian promenade must present a detailed work and action plan. According to the information that has emerged, the responsible agency is the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym).

"The construction work in the area affected by the landslides was carried out according to a construction design and soil studies should have been carried out. We recommend that you evaluate and review if all the improvements that were carried out followed the minimum parameters established in the current building codes," Alicea added.

Because the structure has a difference in elevation of more than 20 feet between the low point and the high point, the engineers recommended that all work be carried out with high safety measures to protect workers once they enter the area of the slide.

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