I’ll admit it. I think of my hometown as a quaint town at the edge of the US. Part of the reason is that our media portrays San Diego as such. For instance, this morning, one of the lead articles in the San Diego Union-Tribune was “Rescued Beagles Proving Popular” which described how people lined up in Encinitas to adopt some rescued beagles.
Yes, they sure are cute!
Thus, I have to remind myself that San Diego is a growing metropolis with greater and greater demands on its infrastructure. One long standing topic has been proposed expansion plans for San Diego International Airport (SDIA). Apparently, our airport only has one runway but manages over 600 flights a day. This makes SDIA the busiest single-runway airport in the US.
According to an article by The New York Times written in 1988, the airport cannot handle international flights on jumbo jets to Asia. I can confirm that I drive to Los Angeles to fly directly to Asia and save $200 on my ticket. The article correctly predicted that San Diego County would grow from 2 million to 3 million people over the next 20 years and explained that San Diegans are ambivalent about growth. The big fear is that San Diego will become Los Angeles — urban sprawl, erratic traffic jams; thus, the city doesn’t do what’s necessary to handle additional growth.
In order to relieve pressure at the airport, several proposals have emerged to reduce demands at SDIA. One idea tossed around in 2006 was to take 3,000 acres of the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar’s 23,000 acres and turn it into a commercial airfield. Apparently, that plan didn’t take hold. Another proposal was to build an airport 70 miles to the east of San Diego and build a high-speed rail to service it. Lastly, floating runways have been proposed for SDIA as well.
Considering how very little has been done over all these decades, I was surprised by an announcement last summer. Sam Zell, the billionaire real estate magnate and head of Equity Group Investments, and a group involving Mexican Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico started building a $120 million foot-bridge that will allow Americans to walk from Otay Mesa on the American side to Tijuana International Airport. “‘The Cross Border Xpress’ will be the first to connect a facility in the US directly to a foreign airport terminal,” reported the San Diego Business Journal.
Essentially an American will be able to walk to Tijuana International then take a flight to over 30 destinations in Mexico as well as international destinations in Asia, e.g. Tokyo, Shanghai. US Customs and Border Protection will be staffed at the bridge. Flights at Tijuana International in Mexico can be up to 50 percent cheaper than at SDIA.
It’s expected that the new footbridge will help relieve the congestion at nearby border crossings at Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. It is estimated that 75,000 people cross the border each day. Traffic at the border can be delayed by as much as 2 hours.
According to the San Diego Business Journal, “The project is being financed by Bancomext and Invex, with construction underway by the San Diego offices of Turner Construction and Hazard Construction, and Mexico’s Grumesa S.A. de C.V., developers said.”