JEFFERSON CITY - What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Thanks to the quick-thinking of Missouri Department of Transportation employees, residents at a St. Louis area independent living facility can keep quality transportation on their list.
Gambrill Gardens is a not-for-profit independent living center in Ellisville. They utilize a wheelchair-lift-equipped transit vehicle daily to assist residents with doctor appointments, grocery shopping and other errands. A crisis occurred for them this month when their vehicle was deemed unsafe and unavailable for use. In fact, Jim Manis with Gambrill Gardens called it "an emergency transportation need."
The normal method for the facility would be to work through a grant application process to request funds for assistance in purchasing a new vehicle. With seniors that need transportation each day and a tight budget, Gambrill Gardens didn't have the time or money for that process and required a faster way to help their residents.
Manis sent out a call for help and MoDOT employees were quick to provide an innovative solution that enabled the facility to have a vehicle for use within two weeks.
Recent federal recovery act funds enabled MoDOT to replace a large amount of existing rural and small urban transit vehicles. Most had 200,000-300,000 miles and had far exceeded useful life. Once vehicles are replaced, MoDOT's Multimodal Unit works with local transit agencies to dispose of the used vehicles. They were able to work with Manis to quickly arrange the purchase of one of these older vehicles that still had some life and meet the seniors' needs.
"It is not the new vehicle we eventually would like to get, but it really helped us get through this emergency," said Manis.
"We normally are only able to help with about half of the new vehicle requests we receive," said Brian Weiler, MoDOT's multimodal operations director. "But recovery act funds created this unique opportunity to help."
MoDOT administers several federal and state assistance programs for Missouri, thirty-five public transportation agencies and about 190 specialized transportation providers.
"We didn't expect help so quickly," said Manis. "Government doesn't usually act this way, and it really helped us to get through this emergency."
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