Civil Engineers who should be shot

I just have to ask… who the FUCK designed Columbia, MD? I’m not talking about the residential portion of one of America’s first planned communities (but the wisdom of creating an entire community with no reliable landmarks that aren’t duplicated 4 blocks later is questionable). I’m talking about whoever the mental giant was that designed the business district.

My business partner and I had to drive from downtown DC to Columbia, MD today to deliver our company’s annual holiday gift to a client there. Keep in mind, this is typically a 5 minute visit, and we’re driving 33 miles to do it. Why? Because someone three levels up from us decided that every one of our active clients had to get this gift. In person.

So we get off 95 at Columbia to discover that there are no damn street signs, rendering our Google directions useless. We stumble our way to the business district on Dobbins Rd, looking for #6440. Approximately where 6440 should be is a shopping center. It contains 6435, 6445, 6450, but no 6440, and no one has any idea where it is. So we go across the street and find a 6440, but it’s an auto-parts store. Great.

Another quarter-mile down the road, in yet another complex, we find what? A SECOND 6440!!! WTF? How can there be so many buildings labeled 6440? Does that not confuse the mail carrier?!

Having completed our 5 minute errand after an hour and a half of driving around, we decide we need some hot chocolate for the ride home and decide to go to the nearby Starbucks. But you can’t get to that Starbucks from the same thoroughfare we were on. There was no driveway into the (yet another) complex it was situated in. Just grass and landscaping.

We had to turn down an unmarked side street to find what was apparently the only driveway into the center. It took us to the loading docks area, where we had to then take a hairpin turn back toward the Starbucks and wind our way around to the front of the building.

Who the hell designs a shopping center this way? Why would you send your shoppers to the loading docks first? That’s like… like joining a dating site and using a photo of your armpit in your profile! Sure, it’s you, but it’s not exactly the best first impression.

I don’t know who designed the Columbia business district, but they did a shitty, shitty job.

6 Comments so far

  1. Joseph LeBlanc (unregistered) on December 7th, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

    That’s why I stay out of Maryland in general.


  2. Andy (unregistered) on December 8th, 2005 @ 2:01 am

    After living in Columbia for 18 years, including learning to drive there, I must admit it is a pleasant surprise to drive in other places and see street signs on larger roads. There are landmarks once you are familiar with the area, but I can only imagine how stressful and confusing it is to a non-native. Apologies on behalf of the humble town that confuses even its own residents.


  3. UnusualCandor (unregistered) on December 8th, 2005 @ 2:14 am

    Tiff, don’t blame the civil engineers for this one. They are the ones that designed the wonderful highways you took up there. They also designed all the great bridges around town.

    There is a reason I didn’t stay in civil engineering. I didn’t want to get blamed for everything.


  4. webjedi (unregistered) on December 8th, 2005 @ 8:38 pm

    It would be community and city planners to blame.

    Having worked in Columbia, and having to drive by there every day to work (to Baltimore), I have to say good riddens. I never liked not being able to get further west when leaving the center of Columbia, it just seems to tie things back into circles.

    But, yes, I can feel your pain… better luck next time… bring a GPS!


  5. TOM MILLS (unregistered) on December 9th, 2005 @ 7:18 am

    At least you can still move in your car. Tyson’s Corner in VA is becoming a virtual parking lot, no matter what time of day you’re there. We left Lorton in Fairfax County for the same reason – took me 20 minutes just to leave my community. I remember seeing a tshirt for sale at a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike that read “Welcome to New Jersey, Now Go Home” – maybe the lack of street signs is a means to send the same message in Columbia?

    As for the Maryland vs. Virginia thing (for us suburbanites), it seems you’re either on one side or the other. As you might already deduce, I fall on the Maryland side of the argument. Maryland, my Maryland.


  6. wayan (unregistered) on December 9th, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

    So many reasons not to leave DC….



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