Special Border Crossing Eyed To Alleviate Congestion At San Diego International Airport

San Diego has a problem. Its airport, Lindbergh Field, has only one runway and, being hemmed in by neighborhoods and the ocean, there isn’t much chance for expansion.

Over the years a number of solutions have been suggested, each more expensive or outrageous than the last. (Floating runways in the Pacific, anyone?)

Travelers have figured out their own workarounds, often relying on nearby airports. There are, for instance, the 2.4 million times a year that people from the United States side of the border cross into Mexico to use Tijuana’s Abelardo L. Rodriguez International Airport, more than 20 miles south of Lindbergh Field.

In an era of soaring airline costs in the U.S., with airfares frequently much cheaper in Mexico, driving the extra miles makes more and more sense. Gilberto Rodriguez, a resident of Riverside, Calif., estimated for the New York Times that he saved $1,000 on one recent trip for his family of four by flying out of Tijuana.

Never mind the many hours they have to wait to cross the border.

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But Rodriguez and other Californians who use Tijuana as their main airport can expect their travels to get a little easier. A joint venture between Chicago’s Equity Group Investments and Grupo Aeropuertario del Pacífico, a public-private consortium that operates 12 airports in Mexico, will create a special border crossing.

Sometime next year, if everything goes according to plan, U.S. residents will be able to park their cars on the American side of the border, go through customs, then walk across a 325-foot-long covered walkway over the border, directly into the Tijuana airport. The bridge is expected to relieve traffic from the nearby San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings and to work exactly the same way, except that people crossing will be required to have an airline ticket.

The project – which is expected to cost a total of $90 million, $75 of that on this side of the border – broke ground on the Mexican side in July.

Developers on the American side have been negotiating for months with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which will operate the checkpoint, and building permits have yet to be issued by the City of San Diego. Both sticking points are expected to receive final approval soon.

Chandler Martin, director of trade, border and community programs told the Times, “This makes sense on a lot of levels. All that time spent waiting to cross [the border] is business foregone. If the border works efficiently, it helps both sides.”

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