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Border & Immigration

Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana's Airport Opens

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.
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
Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana's Airport Opens GUEST: Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and it's Wednesday, December 9. Our top story on midday edition is the long-awaited cross-border terminal linking the US with the Tijuana international Airport opened this morning. The terminal complex called the cross-border express allows passengers to walk from the US to Tijuana international and from the airport across the border to a US border inspector. KPBS front Terrace reporter Jean Guerrero was at today's opening and she's here to tell us about it. Hello Jean.'s max height nice to see. This brand-new terminal is supposed to streamline travel before passengers at Tijuana international can you tell us how it's best to do that? So a lot of people who live in San Diego who travel places within Mexico they use the flights because they're usually cheaper and there are many more destinations in Mexico to fly from and this often means people have to come back to San Diego and are waiting in these long lines at the ports of entry and sometimes hours of traffic. This cross-border bridge allows people to simply walk across the border to and from the airport in less than five minutes. While. Now you need an airline ticket to cross the border is that right? Yes that's true and you need an airline ticket and you also need to buy a ticket to use the bridge from now until December 18 and they are free tied to the opening. You still need to buy one at the website on cross-border express.com and after December 18 they will be $36 for a round-trip ticket and $18 for a one-way ticket. Can you tell us Jean about what this terminal looks like? It's a very, it's a suspended bridge and about 390 feet long and 33 feet wide and it goes right over the border and there's no other bridge like it along the US and Mexico border. It's one of the only cross-border terminals in the entire world. Was it difficult to get built? This is an idea that has been around since as far back as 1990 because of the need to Courtney between the two governments and investors and land usage is use it's taken longer to take to fruition than initially expected. This group of investors with T-1 adventures started in 2008 and were many obstacles for example the simple fact that the Mexican construction companies work with the metric system whereas in the US we work in the Imperial measurement system and simple things like that, with a lot of coordination and planning they were finally able to get it done. This is basically a private consortium that put this terminal together? Exactly. Are there plans also to build up around where the terminal starts in [ Indiscernible ] Mesa? I think there are plans for a hotel and a shopping center on the [ Indiscernible ] Mesa side of the cross-border express? Yes that's true there's a lot of development being planned for the area currently. What about security concerns Jean I know that's a big thing people up and talking about. That's definitely, there were some concern especially with the recent spike in terrorism attacks across the world. There were some thought that this would create a big obstacle to the building of the bridge but I spoke with you so -- US Customs and Border Protection and the boulder and operator and they said this is going to work exactly like any other port of entry with the exact same security measures in place. The only difference is it's a suspended bridge rather than on the ground and CBP has the option to check people going southbound and they will always do that with x-ray baggage checks and passport checks and other revisions of those coming in from Mexico. This sounds like it could be a very exciting turn of events especially for people who are frequent flyers within Mexico and who live in the United States. Did you talk with any people who are excited about the new cross-border bridge? I did and it was really busy this morning. There were so many people excited about the facility. People who cross over to Mexico all the time for example I spoke to a woman named Carol Hopkins who goes back and forth all the time and she's got a business outside of Mexico City and a home in Coronado. She said this was going to change her life. She called it a dream. Another passenger who doesn't travel that frequently he lives in San Diego and he has family in Mexico and he said he does not visit often because of the inconvenience of traveling to and from and this bridge will allow him to visit the more often. I want to thank you very much and I've been speaking with Jean Guerrero with KPBS Terrace reporter inky. Thank you. We just heard about the new cross-border express and it's one of the innovations and that the San Diego region is making to increase airport access. San Diego Lindbergh Field just reproved a master plan to replace terminal one and improve other as existing facilities but the most dramatic plan has been developed by graduate students of Cal State San Marcos. The MBA students have presented an in-depth proposal on why our region needs a new international airport and why it should be located in the southwest corner of Camp Pendleton. Joining me as Glenn Cardell skate a marking -- Glenn [ Indiscernible ] from Cal State. Welcome to the show. Also joining us are two of the students involved in preparing the report Chris Glaspie and Rosemary read. Welcomes you both. Thank you good to be here.

Skybridge From San Diego To Tijuana's Airport Opens
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.

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

Two passengers walk out of the Cross Border Xpress, Dec. 9, 2015.
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
Death At The Border-cross_t700_t480.jpeg
Matthew Bowler
Hundreds of unidentified migrants are buried in this Imperial County cemetery, June 28, 2016.