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Transformative infrastructure project bridges Mexico and California

By Lindsay Wright 09/02/2017

Whether or not it’s always obvious, the infrastructure of a destination can truly impact travelers' experiences, and even small improvements like dedicated bike lanes and well-designed freeways can increase accessibility and have major effects on regional travel.

But in San Diego, an innovative infrastructure project has introduced an entirely unique concept for international collaboration that has effectively reshaped the travel landscape in one of California's premier gateway cities.

Called the Cross Border Xpress (CBX), the enclosed pedestrian walkway at the border between Mexico and the United States connects the Tijuana Airport to a new passenger building in San Diego. Only ticketed passengers flying in and out of the airport can access the bridge, open 24/7 and available for a cost ranging from $16 to $30. The project adheres to all U.S. and international security standards, designed in conjunction with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This past May, Visit California senior leadership and a delegation of California industry partners got a firsthand look at project, which is one of the biggest and most innovative border infrastructure projects in history. The visit was part of Visit California's "All Dreams Welcome" CEO Mission to Mexico, during which the delegation crossed the border via the CBX and got a glimpse of how the project has bolstered border crossings and regional travel.

Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, says that the tourism board worked closely with the team planning the CBX to determine a strategy for marketing this new offering to travelers. 

“We continue to work with Tijuana Airport, CBX and airlines to make sure the message about CBX gets out on how unique it is and the benefits of access to San Diego through CBX,” Terzi says.

Due to the project's unique concept, the Cross Border Xpress took more than 10 years to complete, including many years securing approvals and agreements with both the U.S. and Mexican governments. Although the original idea for this project was developed many years ago in the 1980s, it only came to fruition in 2015. CBX officially opened its doors in December of 2015.

According to Terzi, the Tijuana airport will welcome 6 million passengers this year as the second most-connected domestic airport in Mexico (just after Mexico City). Of those 6 million passengers, over 2 million are expected to utilize the Cross Border Xpress. An average of 5,000 passengers per day utilizes the passageway. Terzi notes that these numbers are expected to grow by double digits in the next several years.

As the sixth-largest economy in the world, California is a major destination for travelers from Mexico, the state's No. 1 international destination. This new platform connects more than 30 Mexican destinations with Southern California, with many users coming from places like Guadalajara, Culiacan, Aguascalientes and Bajio.

To date, the project has been impactful for both the U.S. and Mexican economies, encouraging travel to new destinations for both business and leisure. It also alleviates congestion at other ports of entry in San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, which often experience significant delays. Upon entering the United States through CBX, passengers also have easy access to ground transportation. 

The project is not the last on Tijuana airport’s agenda: The airport is planning an aggressive expansion program, with the intent to open the doors for new air service into the airport.

“We see it as a very positive opportunity to increase the capacity into our region, possibly securing international service into our region that could not be accommodated at the San Diego airport," Terzi says.

The U.S. and Mexican infrastructure connections don’t stop here. Several efforts to better connect the two countries have been made, including energy infrastructure, workforce development, and more. 

What other innovative project have you noticed within your city or other destinations you’ve visited? Share your examples with us below! 

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