Our Two Pesos: Time to Make the San Diego-Tijuana Crossborder Airport Terminal a Reality

August 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm 3 comments

US-Mexico Border & Tijuana's Airport (TIJ)

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.

747 at Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) on 9/11/2001

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:


Downloadable PDF: Crossborder's At-Border Survey Data

Entry filed under: Our Two-Pesos (opinion). Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Flavio Olivieri  |  August 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Congratulations to all involved in achieving this milestone. There is still much to do, we must intensify our crossborder collaboration.

    Thanks to all that have Championed this innitiative from the very begining at the SCEDC. Special “kudos” to Doug Perkins and Tony McCune, for not giving up on the idea.


    • 2. crossbordergroup  |  August 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Absolutely, Flavio… while the discussion of this concept goes back to the early-1990s, it’s really been visionaries like Doug and others at the SCEDC, as well as a coalition of business and civic leaders from both sides of the border (too many to have mentioned in our opinion piece, but certainly not forgotten — including DEITAC, CDT, the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce, the Mexico Business Center, and representatives from the City of Tijuana, the City of San Diego, and the Consul General of Mexico …many of these wrote letters in support of the project at one time or another).

      Having worked with the Otay Mesa Chamber a bit on the issue of land use along the border, and from past research on the crossborder terminal concept, what I think is still missing is a much more active vision of how this binational portal could be leveraged to attract more investment and tourism to the region (San Diego, Chula Vista, Tijuana, Baja California and Southern California), as well as perhaps how our cities can work together with State and Federal officials to not just support this project — but make its effect on both sides of the border even more positive than maybe people have in mind. For the most part, I think it’s been ignored and many regional leaders didn’t believe it could happen. Now that it’s another big step forward — what can our region do to make sure it becomes a reality, and what else could this bring to the communities around it?

      Thanks for your comments – keep them coming!

  • 3. crossbordergroup  |  August 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

    The following comments were also submitted to me by my friend and colleague, Jesus Sandez, Secretary of Economic Development of the City of Tijuana. He is allowing me to reprint them here:


    Sin duda alguna que el anuncio del Presidente Obama relacionado con la autorización de la nueva Terminal Binacional representa un extraordinario avance para, no solo la Mega Region, sino para el desarrollo integral de nuestras ciudades hermanas y con el tiempo un hermanamiento mas profundo en cuanto a nuestras Relaciones, ya que este proyecto viene a probar que los esfuerzos de dos Gobiernos Municipales (San Diego/Tijuana) y dos sectores privados (Cámara Regional de Comercio y DEITAC) resultan efectivos en sus gestiones y visión por reconocer satisfactores a necesidades comunes.

    La SEDETI ha sido una oficina que en todo momento ha identificado estos esfuerzo y necesidades apoyando las gestiones ante las autoridades federales (SCT) en las visitas que la Misión Binacional San Diego/Tijuana hicieran en estos últimos tres año a oficinas de funcionarios, Diputados y Senadores haciendo un planteamiento binacional. Quedaba únicamente la aprobación del Presidente Obama ya que la SCT tenia el proyecto dentro su programa. En visita que hiciéramos al Presidente De México, Felipe Calderón, en una de nuestras misiones nos felicito por el esfuerzo comentando…….. Hay muy buena voluntad entre ambos Presidentes y creemos que esto refleja la buena voluntad que existe entre autoridades y sectores productivos de San Diego y Tijuana.

    Merecen felicitación los esfuerzos combinados, muy en particular la Cámara Regional De Comercio de San Diego y James Clark en particular por su tenacidad en continuar con este proyecto, no nada mas en la Ciudad De México, sino en Washington D.C, ante funcionarios Federales de los E. U. Ser parte de estos esfuerzos resulta altamente satisfactorio.

    Estos son mis 2 Dlls.

    – Ing. Jesus Manuel Sandez Contreras
    Secretario de Desarrollo Económico de Tijuana.


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