Traveling between Mexico and the U.S. just got a whole lot easier. Thanks to a wealthy investor group, California and Mexico now share one of the world’s only cross-border airports.
Instead of building a new airport, the group invested $120 million in the construction of a 390-foot enclosed bridge that passes over the U.S.-Mexico border fence and connects San Diego International Airport with Tijuana International Airport. It’s the first-ever project to directly link a U.S. facility with a foreign airport terminal.
Dubbed the Cross Border Xpress (CBX), the bridge represents the culmination of more than seven years of planning, design, and obtaining permits from both the U.S. and Mexican governments. As of December 2015, the bridge is officially open for business.
Good News for Travelers
The construction of the bridge should alleviate headaches for passengers traveling in all directions. Tijuana International Airport serves as a launchpad to around 30 popular destinations within Mexico, while approximately 60 percent of the passengers (or about 2.6 million people) who pass through Tijuana do so en route to the United States.
Prior to the bridge’s construction, those traveling from Tijuana to the U.S. had to leave the airport via car, drive to a busy land crossing at San Ysidro or Otay Mesa, and wait several hours in order to enter San Diego, which lies between the two land ports of entry. In contrast, it takes about five minutes to walk across the airport bridge in order to meet with U.S. Customs, which has agreed to operate a checkpoint at the bridge. (The rules for entering the country—including those pertaining to passports and visas—are the same as at any other border crossing.)
Currently, the bridge is restricted to passengers who have a Tijuana airport ticket and are flying out within 24 hours. Passengers are only permitted to use the border crossing within two hours of landing in Tijuana. Starting on Dec. 18, the fee to cross the bridge is $18 each way.
A Rare Feat
In developing the Cross Border Xpress, the investors created what is only the second cross-border airport in the world. The other lies between Basel, Switzerland and the Upper Rhine region of France. In a way, the construction of CBX represents a stroke of random good luck: If Tijuana hadn’t built its airport so close to the U.S. border in the 1950s, or if the land around San Diego International had been more developed, then the bridge might never have come to fruition.
As it stands, both travelers and CBX’s investors will benefit from the bridge’s construction. The investors expect to make money off of duty-free shopping, rental car services, restaurants, hotel rooms, and other concessions that are in development within the San Diego terminal.
Passengers, meanwhile, will be able to do away with the hassles and financial costs involved in traveling to land ports of entry. Instead, they can leave all their troubles behind (or, rather, below) as they pass from one side of the border to the other atop the CBX.