Bridgeway's contract to provide Demand Response Transportation Service for the elderly and disabled in McDonough and Hancock Counties expired Friday, June 30, and there doesn't appear to be another service provider ready to take over.
Bridgeway is a non-profit organization in Macomb that has for the last several years provided nearly 40,000 door-to-door demand response trips annually. The majority of the riders pay a small fee to use the service for doctor appointments within the counties and up to 2 hours outside.
Bridgeway gave 30 day notice that it would stop providing the service at the end of June. The decision affects 17 employees in McDonough County and another 4 in Hancock County.
Nathan Cobb, Director of McDonough County Transportation, said he has been unable to find another non-profit organization willing to step up given financial constraints at the state level.
He said the service organization is required to cover the upfront costs associated with the service and then gets reimbursed through state and federal grants every three months.
“The reality is there’s not really another non-profit or company that would really in the situation where the state is right now, that would want to take over those services,” Cobb said.
Cobb said he’s turned to the private sector and has been in conversations with Durham Bus Service about taking over. The company already operates the school buses in Macomb and does labor and maintenance on the public GoWest buses.
But there’s no deal in place yet. So Cobb said that in the meantime, the city of Macomb is offering to pitch in by hiring 4-5 drivers on a temporary basis so that the Demand Response service will continue.
“We just don’t want to have to stop the service on July 1st,” Cobb said. “Because there are a lot of people in the county and Macomb who count on that service.”
Cobb said that includes a small group of people who utilize demand response regularly to attend dialysis treatment.
Since Durham is a private company that operates for profit, Cobb said he expects it will likely charge more to run the service than Bridgeway. Once Durham submits a written proposal detailing how much it would charge, it will need approval from the Macomb City Council and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Cobb said typically IDOT requires the process go through competitive bidding. But he suspects the state will make an exception given the timeliness of the situation. He said that if Durham’s proposal is approved, it would likely be given a one year contract. After that a formal bid process would need to be completed.