Citing a growing crisis in public funding for transportation projects, a local free-market think tank Thursday proposed building a $3 billion "toll tunnel" through the San Gabriel Mountains connecting Glendale and Palmdale.

In a study released today, the Reason Foundation, which has advised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on ways to privatize state government services, proposed the new highway as a way to relieve congestion on the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway and to entice people to use the Palmdale regional airport.

"As we have just witnessed with the recent storms, L.A.'s freeway system lacks reliable redundancy," said Robert Poole, director of transportation for the Reason Foundation and lead author on the study. "And as our population continues to grow, traffic jams are only going to get worse because the state can't afford to do anything more than add a few lane miles here and there. Toll roads are dramatically better than no new roads at all."

The 25-mile long highway would have a five-mile-long tunnel and a seven-mile long tunnel on a route roughly paralleling the Angeles Forest Highway. Poole said it would take about four years to build and would be funded through revenue bonds, which would be paid back from tolls. The study suggested that instead of using a flat toll structure that the tolls be raised during rush hour, which it said would generate more revenues.

The report also proposed toll lanes on the 101 (Hollywood/Ventura) Freeway from Woodland Hills to Los Angeles, a toll-financed tunnel to complete the controversial northward extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway and another toll tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains connecting Riverside and Orange counties.

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