FEET ON SOLID GROUND

Mexico 2016 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: SAN DIEGO-TIJUANA BRIDGE

A new bridge linking San Diego with Baja California is set to unite the airports of San Diego and Tijuana—good news for families and businesspeople alike who are set to benefit from the improved efficiencies the link will provide.

In the mid 1990s, the business community in the San Diego-Baja California region dreamed of a bi-national airport that would bring both sides of the border together. There were enough reasons to believe the project would happen: NAFTA had recently been signed; a Border Liaison Office started to operate in Southern California; and trade flows in the border checkpoints totaled millions of dollars daily. Although the ambitious project never materialized, two decades later a new milestone would bring into effect the essence of that former project with the Cross Border Xpress bridge (CBX), a $120 million investment to unite the airports of San Diego and Tijuana. According to Otay Tijuana Ventures, the company in charge of building the facility, over 2 million people out of the 4.7 million that use the Tijuana airport annually cross the border through one of the most congested border crossings in the world: Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. On the other side, more than 2 million Californians use the Tijuana airport to fly to other destinations within Mexico, as it represents a cheaper or more accessible option to purchase flight tickets.

The CBX has received support on both sides of the border from tourists, families, and the large business community that sees the region as a single economic powerhouse. Cross-border trade is estimated to bring $6 billion annually to the San Diego-Baja region, which has a combined GDP of $200 billion and a population of over 5 million people. The desire to increase cross-border economic activity has resulted in the creation of a series of new organizations such as the CaliBaja Binational Mega Region, the San Diego-Tijuana Smart Border Coalition, and the Imperial Valley Binational Alliance, all working to promote the area as a top business center in California.

Moreover, the region is recognized as a transborder high tech center, hosting companies such as Panasonic, Honeywell, Hyundai, Sony, SAIC, or Pfizer, and boosting one of the most dynamic innovation and research zones in the western hemisphere. R&D plays a major role in the area's development: there are over 70 universities and more than 80 research centers in the region; San Diego is recognized as one of the smartest cities in the world; and advanced engineering and technician professions have become a trend for Mexican students in the Tijuana-Tecate area.

A boarding pass and an $18 dollar fee is everything passengers need now to go from one city to the other. The CBX has changed the way in which the border is conceived; moreover, the idea of building a bridge between both airports boosts the plans by the American and Mexican governments to make North America the most competitive area in the world, and to strengthen the idea of regionalization on both sides of the border.