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Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana’s Airport Opens

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Photo credit: Associated Press

The walking bridge is shown at the Cross Border Xpress air terminal in San Diego, Nov. 25, 2015. The terminal, which uses the bridge to connect to Tijuana, Mexico's decades-old airport, is scheduled to begin operations on Dec. 9, 2015.

Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana's Airport Opens

GUEST:

Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

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The enclosed 390-foot pedestrian skybridge spans the U.S./Mexico border and includes a full-service airline terminal on the U.S. side that can be used by ticketed passengers within 24 hours of a departing flight, or for arriving passengers, two hours after landing.

A cross-border gateway between San Diego and Tijuana's international airport opened Wednesday morning.

The enclosed 390-foot pedestrian skybridge spans the U.S./Mexico border and includes a full-service airline terminal on the U.S. side that can be used by ticketed passengers within 24 hours of a departing flight, or for arriving passengers, two hours after landing.

The rest of the privately run Cross Border Xpress terminal, known as CBX, is accessible to members of the public who may be dropping off or picking up passengers. It's located at 2745 Otay Pacific Drive, between the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings.

"CBX will transform the border crossing experience for millions of travelers," said Carlos Laviada, an investor in the project and a frequent flyer.

Photo caption:

Photo by Christopher Maue

A woman goes through U.S. Customs and Border Protection after walking through the Cross Border Xpress, Dec. 9, 2015.

"We started the planning and approvals for CBX over eight years ago, and it has garnered incredible support on both sides of the border," Laviada said. "Intercountry travel for leisure and business is a critical economic driver for this entire region."

CBX backers estimate that 2 million U.S. passengers fly out of Tijuana's airport annually.

San Diego resident Carol Hopkins is one of those passengers. She was one of the first people to use the Cross Border Xpress, and said the bridge is going to change her life.

"I fly back and forth almost every month to Mexico, because I have a business there, a small hotel, and the hassle of travel has been huge over the years," said the 71-year-old.

Usually, Hopkins has to walk about half a mile to cross the border, then take a taxi to the Tijuana airport. On the way back, she sometimes waits hours in traffic at the ports of entry.

"So that process is pretty difficult if you're carrying a fair amount of luggage and I usually am. So this is much easier," she said.

Photo caption:

Photo by Christopher Maue

Two passengers walk out of the Cross Border Xpress, Dec. 9, 2015.

Gibran Fernandez, 28, was another San Diego resident at the opening of the Cross-Border Xpress. He was on his way to Mexico City for a friend's wedding.

"It seems like it's very easy and fast, so we're excited," he said.

Fernandez said he often uses the Tijuana airport when visiting family in Mexico because flights are cheaper than in the U.S. The airport also includes more destination options. Gen. Abelardo L. Rodriguez International Airport serves 34 cities in Mexico plus Shanghai and Tokyo.

"Going and coming gets a little hard at times, but maybe I'll be going more now, with this easy access," Fernandez said.

Joseph Misenhelter, assistant port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the process of using the cross-border bridge is the same as through any other port of entry.

"The only extra requirement they're going to have is to actually be a ticketed passenger," he said. "Everything else we're going to have is what they're used to."

"This will be a great new option for travel between the U.S. and Mexico," said Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "It is unique in the world, and we expect the CBX will be a catalyst for economic growth in our region on both sides of the border."

Crossings are free through Dec. 18. Subsequent one-way fees will be $18 for adults, with 20 percent off for seniors 65 and up and youth ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free.

Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana's Airport Opens

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