After concern prompts delay, City Council confirms Baltimore transportation director

Michelle Pourciau (right) was appointed director of Baltimore's Department of Transportation in June by Mayor Catherine Pugh (left).
Michelle Pourciau (right) was appointed director of Baltimore's Department of Transportation in June by Mayor Catherine Pugh (left). (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore City Council on Monday unanimously confirmed Michelle Pourciau as the city's transportation director — one week after delaying her confirmation amid concerns.

After meeting one-on-one with Pourciau, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young green-lighted her confirmation vote and she was approved without discussion.


"There was a slight pause so folks could regroup," said Lester Davis, Young's spokesman. "We're moving forward. Folks are on the same page now."

In recent weeks, several council members had expressed concerns about Pourciau, Mayor Catherine Pugh's choice to lead the Department of Transportation, which has a $207 million budget and more than 1,200 employees. Council members said communication between their offices and transportation officials have broken down in some cases.

Several said they were concerned about a plan to spend millions of dollars widening Boston Street while questioning whether the city is committed to building bike lanes and supporting modes of transportation beyond cars.

Baltimore's charter states that the City Council must confirm or reject all "municipal officers" appointed by the mayor within three council meetings. If the council fails to take action, the appointee becomes permanent.

If a majority of the council votes to reject the nominee, the mayor must select a different appointee.

Davis said Young delayed Pourciau's confirmation vote for a week so she could meet with council members and address their concerns, particularly about communication between her office and the council. When it came time to vote, no council member spoke against her.

"I do believe that as a council we have some concerns. The delay gives the council an opportunity to get some of those concerns addressed," City Councilman Leon Pinkett said before the vote. "As a council, we have to make sure all city agencies are responsive. There have been issues with responsiveness as it relates to the Department of Transportation. We want to make sure any issues of communication are cleared up."

Pugh announced Pourciau as the city's transportation director in June. She had run the Washington, D.C., transportation department and later implemented that city's traffic camera system. Pourciau's salary is $173,000.

She has faced a series of challenges since taking the job.

The re-launch of Baltimore's speed camera system stumbled on its first day, when the program's vendor accidentally issued a combined $38,480 in duplicate tickets to 962 people.

Pourciau also decided to temporarily shut down Baltimore's $2.36 million bike-share program, which has suffered so many thefts and maintenance backups that most of the bicycles are out of service.

And City Council members objected to a proposal to spend millions of dollars widening Boston Street in Southeast Baltimore — a move one official says would turn the road into a "superhighway."

Pugh said she has confidence in Pourciau, and was glad to have a "partner" in Young.

"I'm very confident in our DOT director," the mayor said. "She hasn't had a chance to make all of her rounds. This is a person with almost 25 years of experience. I'm excited about her leadership."