San Diego, California – Beginning December 9, the U.S. – Mexico border at San Diego and Tijuana will share the first and only airport that straddles two countries.
The project has been in the works since 2005, when an investor group proposed to build a sleek terminal in San Diego with a walkway bridge that would cross over the Mexican border and into the country’s Tijuana airport.
The project is now complete and set for opening on December 9 when passengers will be able to walk the 390-foot overpass from San Diego to the Tijuana International Airport.
Passengers making the walk will have to pay $18 US. The target market is the estimated 2.6 million Tijuana passengers who come to the United States each year. Up until now, Tijuana passengers made the drive to a congested land crossing where they waited hours to enter San Diego by car or by foot. The new airport bridge is a five-minute walk to a US border inspector.
The only other cross-border airport known to industry experts is in the European Union between Basel, Switzerland, and France’s Upper Rhine region, but it carries none of the political freight of San Diego and Tijuana.
The terminal is one of the last works by the late Ricardo Legorreta, whose bold colors helped bring Mexican modernism to a world stage. The stone exterior of the new pedestrian overpass mixes purple stucco and red limestone that takes on a deep, inky hue when it rains. Stone gardens sprout agave and other desert plants. Passengers enter a courtyard with a reflecting pool to an airy building with ticket counters and kiosks. Inside are high, white ceilings accented with large orange circles of recessed lighting.
Ticketed passengers must carry their luggage across a bridge to border inspectors in the receiving country. The skywalk is divided by a center wall that seperates each direction.
The privately-held consortium, Otay-Tijuana Venture LLC, is not releasing financial projections but says they expect to make money on a duty-free shop, rental car companies, restaurants and other concessions. They say that terminal fees will go largely to pay U.S. border inspector salaries, one of the nation’s few privately-funded ports of entry.
The $120 million terminal occupies less than half their 55-acre parcel. The city of San Diego has also approved a 340-room hotel, shopping center and gas station.