With construction set to begin between late September and early October on the highly anticipated project connecting I-95 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, officials are coming up with several ways to finance the project. One method involves using loans from foreign investors in exchange for citizenship.
A new interchange will directly connect the Pa. Turnpike to Interstate 95, making I-95 continuous through the Mid-Atlantic region.
Officials say the project will reduce congestion on local Bucks County roadways and improve the flow of traffic in the Philadelphia area and along the entire east coast. With no direct link to the Pa. Turnpike, drivers on I-95 are currently forced to get off at the Route 413 exit in Bristol. They then eventually pick up the Turnpike down the road off Route 13.
Stage 1 of the project includes high speed connections to the Pa. Turnpike and I-95 in Bucks County, a new mainline toll plaza and mainline widening. The project will make I-95 continuous through the east coast from Florida to Maine. Construction is set to be complete between 2017 and 2018.
The cost of the entire project is $1.4 billion with the majority of the money coming from federal funds. The Pa. Turnpike Commission itself is set to pay a small portion of that amount. To help with the costs, officials say that foreign investors, mostly from China, are expected to loan the Pa. Turnpike Commission $200 million.
“We’re estimating today that we would save about $35 million in savings associated with borrowing through this particular program,” said Nikolaus Grieshaber, the CFO of the Turnpike Commission.
Grieshaber explained that the financing is possible through a federal program approved every two years by congress since the 1990’s. The program gives foreign investors and their immediate families visas to live in the U.S. and a five year path to citizenship in exchange for their money.
It’s anticipated that the first phase of the road work project will create over 4,000 jobs. As part of the requirement for the federal program, every $500,000 from a foreign investor must generate ten positions.
Sundrop Carter, of the Pa. Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, believes the program shows preferential treatment for the wealthy.
“Immigration status in this case, it sounds like, is being used as a carrot to entice investors,” Carter said. “We are really disappointed to see that congress is willing to spend time and energy making these programs happen when really what we need is an overhaul of our immigration system.”
NBC10 also learned the Department of Homeland Security runs the federal program and screens all applicants.