Our Two Pesos: Time to Make the San Diego-Tijuana Crossborder Airport Terminal a Reality
For those keeping up on border infrastructure issues in the California-Baja California region, some quiet progress has been happening that could dramatically shape the future of the binational sister cities of Tijuana and San Diego. On July 23, the U.S. State Department issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) [link] for Otay-Tijuana Venture, LLC’s proposed crossborder airport terminal — followed even more quickly than some (including ourselves) could imagine with the issuance on August 4 (only hours ago, as of this writing) by Secretary of State Clinton of the Presidential Permit required to authorize moving forward on the project [link to announcement].
While many may not be familiar with this project, the concept has been discussed at various governmental levels (and various levels of interest) since at least 1991 — the year that Mexico’s Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA) proposed an expansion of Tijuana’s International Airport (TIJ) that included two runways and a US terminal in Otay Mesa. More recently, a local economic development organization, the South County Economic Development Council (SCEDC), has championed the concept, resulting in a positive preliminary study in 2007-2008 by the San Diego Airport Authority. Our own firm, in fact, included questions about the crossborder terminal concept in our own at-border surveys for several years — a few results of which are presented at bottom — finding that over one-third of San Diego residents that crossed the border had flown out of TIJ at least once within the last year.But now it’s time to turn the data and the concepts into a reality — and time to get the regional leadership not just of San Diego and Tijuana on-board (a goal that’s hard enough), but civic leadership in our respective State and Federal capitals, as well.
Before the “anti-terminal” activists start coalescing (which, we believe, they will), let’s first imagine how such a Crossborder Terminal might positively impact the Greater San Diego-Tijuana Metro Region if it is truly embraced by our regional leadership. Not only could it physically represent the kind of mature, 21st Century crossborder relationship that many other regions along the US-Mexico border and around the world would envy (since there are only two other examples of crossborder terminals we are aware of in the world), but what may be the region’s newest, privately-funded border crossing could also help both sides of our regional border to attract investment, development, and new connections for global tourism.
It also (as we’ve opined before) will enhance regional airport security by (de facto) profoundly connecting operations at Tijuana’s Airport with US Federal authorities (immigration and customs) — a situation that doesn’t exist under Tijuana’s existing situation. This doesn’t mean that US authorities will necessarily have any additional authority in sovereign Mexican territory (or vice versa) — but let us hope that US- and Mexico-based agencies use the opportunity to share information for increased security throughout the entire binational community.
One can already imagine the anti-terminal arguments that we’ll hear: “What about security?”, “Won’t this increase illegal immigration?”, etc. What we won’t hear — unless we start working now — are the arguments not only in favor of making this crossborder terminal a reality, but the vision of how this important piece of infrastructure could further enhance this Mega-Region’s long-term global connectivity, could provide a true centerpiece to the broader binational US-Mexico community, and give yet one more tool to help the San Diego-Tijuana Metro Region out-compete other advancing, high-tech regions in North America — and the world. That’s our two-pesos.
Let us know what you think – and feel free to download some past at-border survey results about binational air travel in our PDF below:
Entry filed under: Our Two-Pesos (opinion). Tags: airport, border crossers, border economy, infrastructure, North America, Otay Mesa, Ports of Entry, San Diego, surveys, Tijuana, tourism, transportation, two pesos.