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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024

Cross-Border Airport Terminal Plan Gains Steam

The idea of an American terminal for Tijuana International Airport, laid out in a 1998 report by a South County economic development agency, has a following in San Diego that endures to this day.

The concept is to let people use a secure border crossing at Otay Mesa to get to and from planes at Tijuana’s Rodriguez Field.

The idea may even make its way into San Diego’s updated planning blueprint for Otay Mesa.

Unlike the Twin Ports concept of the 1990s, the airport runway and most other facilities would remain on the Mexico side of the international border, said Cindy Gompper Graves, the chief executive of the South County Economic Development Council.

What’s more, Graves said, the cross-border terminal was “never intended” to replace the current San Diego International Airport. Rather, the cross-border terminal would complement Lindbergh Field.

“It’s a great short-term solution, and it’s too bad more people aren’t focusing on it,” said Rob Hixson, a commercial real estate broker with CB Richard Ellis who serves as chairman of the city’s Otay Mesa planning group.

Citing the 1998 study prepared for the regional economic development group, Hixson said many more people would use Rodriguez if they only had access.

For decades, San Diego leaders have been searching for a replacement for Lindbergh Field, which is as cramped as it is convenient. In recent years, the search has fallen to Lindbergh Field’s operator, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

The cross-border terminal is not a concept that has come before the authority board or its strategic planning committee, said Joe Craver, the board’s chairman.

Open To Ideas

Still, Craver said, “we’re more than willing to listen to any concept.”

Public discourse on the cross-border terminal increased last week when the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a high-ranking Mexican government official expressed interest in the project. That expression of interest was relayed by San Diego business leader Malin Burnham, who recalled a meeting in Mexico City in December. Burnham did not return a call for comment from the San Diego Business Journal.

Also in December, planning officials at San Diego City Hall played host to a delegation of community leaders, who presented their vision of the cross-border terminal.

The meeting was one of several round-table discussions held by the planning department, said Mary Wright, program manager for the department.

The current Otay Mesa community plan makes no mention of a cross-border terminal, said Wright, though she said a revision might. If added, the update would simply say the idea needs further study, Wright said.

One core question is what the terminal would look like. At its “bare minimum,” the terminal would be a parking lot, Wright said. Or it might be “a series of land uses,” she said.

City officials have set a spring 2007 target date to revise the plan.


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