Friday, June 24, 2016



      There's always a new idea on the horizon, and building a 390-foot skyway bridge connecting the US with the Tijuana Airport is one of the more interesting ones. The Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bridge and terminal opened in December 2015, making Tijuana's A.L. Rodriguez International Airport the only airport in the world to have terminals in two countries.

      It was the creation of Ralph Nieders, who introduced the concept in 1990. He spent almost 27 years of his life working with officials, politicians, and investors to finally get it accomplished. 

     I had a chance to visit the CBX terminal recently when my son asked for a ride so he could get to the Tijuana Airport for a flight. I was glad to drive him and to find out more about how this seemingly easy five-minute walk across the US-Mexico border would work.

It is 22 miles southeast of San Diego. And with mostly freeway and little traffic at 9 a.m. on a weekday morning, it was a pleasant drive. As you approach the new terminal there are wide roadways with plenty of open space, palm trees and the San Ysidro Mountains in the distance. The new terminal is a colorful brown brick modern building with purple trim and a white roof. It was designed by the late Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. A convenient 900 space parking lot next to the terminal makes dropping off and picking up passengers easy. The first 15 minutes of parking are free.

     From the convenient drop off point, passengers simply enter the sparkling new terminal with check-in counters, self-service kiosks, and a food counter with pleasant indoor and outdoor seating. A boarding pass and a $12 one-way ticket is all that is required to enter the walkway bridge to cross the border.

     Not bad, however, once in the main terminal, it's business as usual with gates, arrival facilities, security lines and delayed flights that are common to air travel these days.

     Almost five million passengers pass through the Tijuana airport annually, and of those more than 60% are traveling from Southern California. The busy airport offers direct flights to over 30 cities in Mexico. It has a single runway, two concourses and 23 gates. Aeromexico is the largest carrier with 20 flights daily. The second largest is Volaris airlines, a Mexican low-cost carrier.

     Travelers can cross up to 24 hours prior to their flight giving them a chance to spend some time in downtown Tijuana before their flight. Returning passengers must go within four hours of arrival to the skyway bridge for their exit and then clear US customs and inspections in the new terminal.

      CBX offers an opportunity for travelers to avoid the congestion at the Otay Mesa and San Ysidro Ports of Entry where wait times can extend for several hours. It is estimated that 1.4 to 1.8 million people will use the bridge during the first year. This $120 million facility, privately operated by Otay-Tijuana Venture LLC, is expected to increase future business at the airport.


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