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City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, center, stands with now-Mayor and then-City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young, left, and then-Mayor Catherine Pugh at the swearing-in ceremony of the 72nd Baltimore City Council in December 2016.
City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, center, stands with now-Mayor and then-City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young, left, and then-Mayor Catherine Pugh at the swearing-in ceremony of the 72nd Baltimore City Council in December 2016. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s plans for a safer street design that prioritizes pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users over cars will not meet the deadline set in the city’s new “Complete Streets” ordinance, officials said Wednesday. City Councilman Ryan Dorsey blamed the delay on the administration of former Mayor Catherine Pugh.

The law, which Dorsey sponsored, requires the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, among other tasks, to create a manual laying out new street design standards, a hierarchy for different modes of transportation, definitions of the city’s different street types, and plans to prioritize projects equitably and gather community feedback.

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The department won’t hit the Oct. 3 deadline to release a draft manual for public comment, deputy director and policy chief Theo Ngongang told Dorsey in a City Council’s Transportation Committee meeting Wednesday.

“We are a little bit behind the schedule,” he said, citing a need for more community outreach as a main reason for the delay.

The city has hired Larry Marcus, a consultant at Vienna, Virginia-based Wallace Montgomery who chairs the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Complete Streets Council, to help the department create the manual.

Marcus said the ransomware attack on the city this summer also contributed to the delay.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “The ordinance is quite progressive. Now it’s about delivering that into reality.”

“They did everything they could to obstruct the passage of the bill," he said, “and so it’s not surprising they would have under-resourced the ability to implement it.”

A staffing shortage in the department isn’t helping, the councilman said. Pourciau demeaned her employees, and her criticisms of their work were so harsh they bordered on being “personal attacks,” the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation found.

“There are 200 vacancies in the Department of Transportation, which we can also attribute to the previous director and administration as a deterrent for people wanting to work for the city of Baltimore,” Dorsey said.

Transportation Director Steve Sharkey, the former director of the city’s General Services department, was appointed by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to stabilize the beleaguered department.

Sharkey attended the meeting and spoke briefly about the department’s comprehensive transportation plan, a data-driven road map of the city’s transportation assets and needs, which has been in the works about two years. He said it will serve as a “continuation of ‘Complete Streets’ ” through 2045.

Dorsey, who heads the Transportation Committee, said he plans to extend the deadline to allow the department more time to comply with the law.

Jed Weeks, policy director for Bikemore, which has been one of the top proponents of the new ordinance, said the bicyclist advocacy group is “supportive of a delay to get things right.”

“The prior administration got us started on the wrong foot,” Weeks said. “We have confidence Director Sharkey can get us back on track.”

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