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Faulconer Says Economic Opportunity Talks With Tijuana Mayor Were ‘Well Received’

Kevin Faulconer made his first trip as San Diego mayor to Tijuana on Friday, in order to open lines of communication and explore economic opportunities on the other side of the border.

Faulconer met with Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran -- who also was sworn-in recently -- members of the Tijuana City Council, the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation and key business leaders.

The trip, coming in his first week on the job, was designed to showcase the importance of the San Diego-Tijuana relationship, Faulconer said at a press briefing following his return to San Diego.

Kevin Faulconer speaks to the media for the first time as San Diego mayor at City Hall on March 6, 2014.

"Particularly from an economic standpoint," Faulconer said. "We're working to put San Diegans back to work, creating opportunities for good-quality jobs on both sides of the border. That was a message that was very well received."

Among the top issues were necessary infrastructure upgrades on this side of the border. Faulconer pointed at improvements needed on La Media Road, where traffic congestion can lead to two-hour delays at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry truck crossing, and making sure that money budgeted by the federal government for the San Ysidro border crossing expansion project is actually spent.

He said business leaders on both sides of the border have an interest in expanding the movement of freight on the San Diego & Eastern Arizona Railroad, which connects northern Baja California with the U.S. The line is operated by Pacific Imperial Railroad, which in January announced plans to restore cargo service.

"We talked a lot about synergy, of taking advantage of what we have and how do we grow it -- how do we make sure that we have a competitive advantage here in our region," Faulconer said. "I spoke very clearly that it's one mega-region, that's how we're looking at it."

He said economic opportunity will be increased for everyone if officials on the two sides work together.

Thursday, he announced that the currently unstaffed city of San Diego "office" in Tijuana will remain open. The location, opened under disgraced, former Mayor Bob Filner, actually is just space set aside for the city's use in the offices of the Tijuana EDC.

A binational affairs director will be hired soon to make regular visits to Tijuana and make use of the facility, which could be expanded in the future, according to the mayor. He said the office will "foster communication" between the two cities.

Faulconer said he and Astiazaran also discussed plans to have their staffs work together on various issues.

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