Pennsylvania Turnpike users who have long since switched to E-ZPass may be surprised to learn that the toll road still prefers paper for some transactions. Rather than toll tickets, the Turnpike Commission is seeking federal approval to hand out green cards to foreign investors willing to lend it millions of dollars. Permission to live in the United States would be offered as part of a complex deal to finance a long-delayed interchange between the turnpike and I-95 in Bucks County.
In addition to securing low-cost capital funds for the project, the arrangement could spin off as much as $20 million in commissions for officers of a well-known and well-connected Philadelphia investment management firm.
Turnpike officials defend the proposal as a way to keep down borrowing costs. The commission's debt has ballooned to $7 billion in recent years as state transportation officials have turned to the agency to support road and transit projects across the commonwealth.
But in revealing the deal last week in response to an inquiry by The Inquirer, the commission has set off more flashing lights than a fare runner speeding past a tollbooth.
Read more on the Wednesday Inquirer editorial page.
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