A new wave against 710 tunnel

Linking quality of life in Glendale to the cargo containers at the Port of Los Angeles, opponents of the proposed 710 Freeway extension are studying a sweeping alternative to the plan to dig a five-mile tunnel connecting the 710 to the 210 Freeway.

On Saturday afternoon, two dozen people concerned about the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's tunnel plans gathered at the South Pasadena Library to hear former port worker Dave Alba's idea for dumping the 710 tunnel project.

Alba wants to see a cargo rail pipeline running alongside the San Gabriel River and then out to the massive warehouses of Ontario, saving an estimated 2.5 million truck trips a year from the harbor along the 710 (Long Beach) Freeway to the Inland Empire.

Alba's vision includes the cargo tunnel, a huge, high-tech cargo transfer facility at the port, as well as environmental improvements, energy transmission upgrades and development along the San Gabriel River.

The proposal would replace six related infrastructure projects, including the controversial 710 tunnel, a widening of the existing 710 Freeway, two port expansions and two upgrades to rail facilities near the port.

"We are offering a 21st-century solution vs. what we perceive as 19th-century solutions," Alba said.

Richard Mueller, a transportation engineer in Rancho Cucamonga who supports Alba's proposal, estimated the project would cost $20 billion.

Meanwhile, Alba estimates the six projects already under consideration would cost between $14.75 billion and $22.75 billion.

Though he said his proposal would be a major job creator with longstanding benefits for the port and the region, he acknowledged it will be an uphill battle to gain support from government agencies, labor unions, the affected companies and landowners.

"We have to create as many friends as we can and minimize enemies," Alba said.

Foes of the 710 said they are interested in Alba's idea, but realize it is ambitious.

Glendale resident Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Committee said her group, which includes residents from Highland Park to Tujunga and Montrose to Mount Washington, is exploring alternatives to the tunnel.

"We don't want to be the type of group that just says no, no, no, we don't want a tunnel. We want to say here are our ideas," Bolan said.

The complexity and cost of Alba's plan are concerns, she said.

"The plan he is putting forth, while it would be really good for the community, I'm not sure it is doable," Bolan said. "It has so many layers, so many entities. But it is something we need to consider, definitely."

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian has pushed the MTA to identify a price tag for the tunnel before further environmental studies are done. His motion is scheduled for an MTA board vote in February.

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