It's just a matter of time before traveling becomes a lot more expensive.

In the not-too-distant future, more toll booths will pop up on interstate highways. Pennsylvania wasn't permitted to toll I-80 after seeking approval from the Federal Highway Administration, but such rejection won't last long.

Here's why.

This week, the FHA gave permission to Virginia to place tolls on Interstate 95 on a trial basis. The tolls will range from $2 to $4.

The main stipulation is that all funds raised can be used only for I-95 repairs and maintenance.

When Pennsylvania proposed a toll on Interstate 80 a year or two ago, it was rejected by the Highway Administration because the state would have turned the tolling over to the Pa. Turnpike Commission. The FHA said it turned down the proposal because the money would not be used entirely on I-80.

It's a guarantee that other states will follow Virginia's example and begin seeking permission to add tolls onto the interstates. Some states already have tolls on Interstate 80.

Such tolls are nothing more than an added tax. The extra revenue wouldn't mean a reduction in the state's 31-cents per gallon tax on gasoline or 35-cents per gallon tax on diesel fuel. It won't add more money for general road repairs such as roads leading to the interstates.

Besides being a burden on commuters, the interstate taxes come back to consumers. Trucking firms pass the fees onto their customers, who then impose it on the goods they sell.

If Interstate 80 or any other interstate highways become toll roads, the Pa. Turnpike Commission should not be the governing authority. The Turnpike commission already has its hands full with 470 miles of road on which it collects tolls.

Allowing a government agency to get too big isn't good. There should be separate commissions for each interstate with all of them being accountable to the Pa. Department of Transportation.

If unionized, all employees should be under separate contract so that Pennsylvania residents could not become hostage to a statewide strike.

The real scare is that if I-80 gets a toll, will I-78 and I-81 be next? How much can the motoring public endure? People commuting already pay turnpike fees, bridge tolls, and gas taxes.

We've already gone too far with taxation without representation, which any turnpike agency amounts to.

Also, where does such tolling stop?

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com