It’s raining on campus. Students walking alongside busy roads try to remain as far from the street as they can to avoid getting splashed. They tread carefully over the puddles that form on the sidewalks in hopes of keeping their shoes as dry as possible.
“I’ve personally almost slipped or fallen when riding my bike because of the rain,” said psychology senior Jenna Hilario. “Puddles are also the worst because I not only splash the people around me, but it gets on my pants too.”
Hilario, who works at the Jimmy John’s on campus, said she and her coworkers experience slippery sidewalks and large puddles during wet days. One coworker has slipped and fallen while riding their bike through a puddle, scraping their knees, she said. Hilario usually sees the biggest puddles near the library and University Lofts, she said.
For students walking along Cullen Boulevard and by the new Garage Five, these problems are getting addressed. Plans are in place to improve drainage along Cullen through a two year, $15 million project, in collaboration with Harris County and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodeny Ellis, according to the UH website.
“The project extends 1.5 miles from North MacGregor at Brays Bayou to I-45,” according to the UH website. “It includes complete reconstruction of Cullen Boulevard from the bayou to Elgin Street and median and sidewalk enhancements from Elgin to I-45.”
The new Cullen Boulevard will have improved storm sewers, new rain storage tanks and both will have increased capacity to hold rainwater.
The update will also include new, porous pavement that will allow water to drain between the cracks and prevent puddles.
The improvements will mean the stretch of road will exceed the City’s required two-year rainfall event standard and will manage the run-off from a 100-year rainfall event, 13 inches in 24 hours, according to the UH website.
Construction is slated to start in May 2019 and to be completed by June 2021. The project will be done in two phases. The first part of construction will fix the section between North MacGregor and Wheeler Avenue and end in December 2019. The second will span from Wheeler Avenue to I-45.
While the collaboration with Harris County will affect only Cullen Boulevard, the University has also been simultaneously working on improving drainage and building Garage Five.
“As a part of the Garage 5 construction, additional drainage was/is being installed to increase the drainage of the Entrance 18/Elgin intersection,” said Associate Vice President for Facilities and Construction Management, David Oliver, in an email.
UH Facilities has also identified other problem areas on campus, but as of now, there are no plans in place to fix the buildings in question, two of which are scheduled to be replaced in the coming years due, in part, due to flooding concerns.
“Our primary areas of concern are low areas along Elgin and Cullen (in front of Cougar Dining),” Oliver said. “We also have reoccurring issues during heavy rains in basement areas at the Satellite, Law Library, MD Anderson Library and Moore’s School of Music Organ Recital Hall.”
While the Cullen Boulevard construction will affect many students, as the area is a traffic hot spot, much of campus will still experience ponding when it rains, since the University lies in such a low elevation, flat area with an increasing population.
A spot which is a hot bed for flooding, while not necessarily on campus, is the underpass of I-45 and Texas Spur 5, which many students and faculty take when commuting to campus. The area dips and will often form a deep puddle not long after it starts raining. The University cannot currently do anything to fix the area because they do not own it.
“The area that is specifically referenced under I-45/Spur 5 is a TXDOT owned area, and we haven’t had any conversations with TXDOT on this area,” Oliver said.