With blotchy, uneven patches of asphalt, potholes and paving, Cullen Boulevard has long remained a source of headache and embarrassment for students, faculty and staff.
The Student Government Association is campaigning to have the road repaved, but like driving down the road, it hasn’t been easy.
“Last year, we identified Cullen Boulevard as being a priority for SGA,” said SGA president Cedric Bandoh. “We wanted to get with our elected officials to rebuild the street. As you know, it’s one of the main entryways into the University, and it’s in deplorable condition.”
Because the street is not privately owned by the University, SGA must lobby with city officials to make fixing Cullen a priority.
The city’s initiative, ReBuild Houston, was created specifically to improve mobility throughout Houston by fixing problems with street infrastructure. But to receive funding for a project through ReBuild Houston, a City Council member must advise that a project be added to an annual list called the Capital Improvement Plan, which is written and approved by the Public Works Department each Spring.
“A big part of what we do in SGA is advocacy and engaging elected officials,” Bandoh said. “But I must say, after this whole past year, we felt that there was no true desire or want to help us from our City Council member in this district.”
Despite the challenges SGA faced in engaging city officials, the city agreed to place asphalt patches on top of the larger potholes that pervade the road. Still, the SGA director of external affairs, Bria Riley, said this is a temporary and ineffective fix.
“(Houston City Council’s) initial reaction was, ‘We’ll repave the worst part of the street,’ but that’s not going to help if all it takes is a flood or another hurricane (to re-damage it),” Riley said.
“It’s basically a bandage over the situation, and that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a permanent solution. This year, our goal is to get them to rebuild from MacGregor to Elgin — especially in front of the new stadium.”
SGA plans to engage other members of City Council, specifically Councilwoman At-Large Melissa Noriega, a UH alumna, as well as the three other City Council members who graduated from the University. SGA will also focus on getting students actively involved in the effort to rebuild Cullen. One way they hope to do this is by creating a “Rebuild Cullen Boulevard” Facebook page.
“We kind of sat back last year and said, ‘OK, us in the External Affairs department, we’re engaging the city,’ but we need more students to talk about this on campus. We need more buzz and noise created because it’s through the numbers that we’re actually going to see change with this,” Bandoh said.
“Let’s get people on there to post pictures of the conditions, tell their stories and spread it. Hopefully, it’ll get to someone in City Hall.”
As of Aug. 17, the page has 978 likes. Riley said she hopes students will not only like the page, but attend more City Hall meetings.
“They can’t just hear it from SGA,” Riley said. “If more students were willing to be more engaged and to help us combat this, like Cedric said, we are more powerful in numbers and that’s how we’ll get this done.”
Before the end of the year, SGA plans to receive a commitment from City Hall to create a timeline that notes when construction will begin on the MacGregor to Elgin portion of Cullen.