A new, privately operated international port of entry connecting San Diego with Tijuana’s main airport opened on Wednesday, Dec. 9, inaugurating a new era of cross-border travel.
Ticketed airline passengers flying to and from Tijuana’s A.L. Rodriguez International Airport will be able to cross the US-Mexico border by a 390-foot-long elevated walking bridge.
After eight years of planning, the Cross Border Xpress opened at 9a.m. on Wednesday to a stream of passengers contented with the ease and speed of the new way to cross the US-Mexico border.
The Cross Border Xpress is a private endeavor owned by Otay Tijuana Venture, a US-based company with American and Mexican investors, including real estate mogul Sam Zell.
Otay Tijuana Venture has been negotiating with government agencies on both sides of the border to build the $120 million structure. The facility, decked out in purple and orange, stands out from the industrial warehouses of the Otay Mesa area.
The Cross Border Xpress allows travelers to avoid the congestion of other crossings. The alternative crossings, the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, usually take anywhere from one to three hours for travelers to cross. The Cross Border Xpress takes less than a half an hour.
CBX is the only port of entry on the California border that requires travelers to pay a toll. CBX is also the only US border crossing that is linked directly to a foreign airport.
Cross Border Xpress CEO Enrique Valle likens the new border crossing to an “airport without a runway.” The California Border Patrol, on the other hand, regards the CBX like any other border crossing in the United States, except travelers have to be ticketed airline passengers. The CBP’s secured area features eight inspection booths, four X-ray scanners and kiosks where travelers can use RFID-enabled documents like the Sentri card. The CBP was consulted during the design of the CBX, which includes secondary inspection and holding areas for travelers taken into custody.
The facility includes a California Border Patrol inspection area, airline ticket counters, 850 parking spaces, car rental services, and connections with inter-city buses, taxis and Uber vehicles. CBX will soon open a duty-free shopping area and a restaurant. For travelers who do not want to drive into Tijuana, there is long-term parking available on the US side for $10 a day. CBX plans to build a 340-room hotel, a gas station and a shopping center in the coming years.
CBX’s owners predict long-term growth for the new terminal and Tijuana, as well. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and other San Diego business groups have been strong backers of the project, which will likely increase local land value.
Starting Dec. 19, travelers will have to pay an $18 toll to use the crossing, but for the moment crossing is free. Travelers 65 years old and over and those 12 years old and under will receive 20% discounts, while those under 3 years old will cross for free.
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