The city removed a popular panhandling median this week

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight is First Friday Art Walk. Here’s what’s going on.  

What we’re talking about

Troy Bennett today reports:

Motorists approaching downtown Portland via outer Congress Street will no longer be asked for money by panhandlers in the median strip at the corner of St. John Street. The city removed the median — curb, flowers, sign and all — earlier this week. The three-lane roadway is now paved flat in the middle.

However, BDN Portland reader Patrick Ledwith posted a photo on Facebook this morning, taken just before 8:30 a.m., showing a woman panhandling in the middle of the street, notwithstanding the lack of a median strip.

Despite Portland’s public legal battle to keep panhandlers out of the medians, which it lost in a federal appeals court last year, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the removal of the median had nothing to do with panhandlers.

“When the Department of Public Works re-striped the Congress Street inbound approach at St. John last year to accommodate a bike lane, the through lane was rather pinched up against the median (literally about 9.75 feet),” she said in an email. “As a result … we added removal of the median to the work plan to better adjust the lane geometry and alignments.”

The corner was a popular and visible location for panhandlers who often waited in line for their turn or slept in the grass behind a picket fence nearby. The scene greeted thousands of motorists a day as they approached the city’s downtown.


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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.