A pedestrian bridge connecting Otay Mesa with the Tijuana International Airport is getting closer to reality as officials obtain the necessary permits and approvals.
The 525-foot bridge is the centerpiece of the San Diego-Tijuana Airport Cross Border Facility, which will include a 65,000-square-foot facility on the U.S. side that features retail shops, a gathering area and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection area for those entering from Mexico.
The facility is designed to ease wait times for those traveling to and from the Tijuana airport and divert traffic from the congested ports of entry at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.
"After 15 years of talking about a cross-border facility, it appears it's finally coming to fruition," said Cindy Gompper-Graves, president and CEO of the South County Economic Development Council. "We're very excited because we know what it means for the region. It offers easily accessible international flights, which is very important for companies looking to locate here."
In January 2012, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved land-use entitlements and an environmental impact report for the pedestrian port of entry.
The council also approved entitlements for the future construction of a hotel, parking structure and commercial development on the U.S. side of the border.
Otay-Tijuana Venture LLC, a private investment group helping to finance the project, is preparing to obtain grading and construction permits from the city of San Diego so work can begin on the California side of the facility.
No date has been set yet for groundbreaking, but once grading begins, construction is expected to take approximately 15 months. Officials hope to break ground this year.
"We are in the process of obtaining diplomatic notes between the U.S. and Mexican departments of state, which represents the final federal approval needed from both Mexico and the United States," said Stephanie Saathoff, a spokeswoman for the project.
The appropriate federal agencies in Mexico have issued the necessary licenses and permits, including the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation and the Comisión Internacional de L'mites y Aguas, and the necessary agreements are in place with Grupo Aeropuerto Pacifico (GAP), which operates the Tijuana airport.
Otay-Tijuana Venture also is working with U. S. Customs and Border Protection to finalize an operations agreement.
The facility is expected to create the capacity for 2 million border crossings per year and be a new economic engine for South County.
The project calls for improvements to be made to the Tijuana airport so that Mexican customs can verify foreign travelers heading into Mexico.
The cross-border facility and pedestrian bridge are being designed by the team of Legoretta Y Legoretta and Stantec, internationally renowned architects who also have significant experience with transportation facilities.
"The team brings cultural and aesthetic influences from both sides of the border to this unique project, while fully addressing the complex requirements of safety and security in both countries," Saathoff said. "Our goal is to ensure a safe, easy, efficient connection and an outstanding travel experience."
There will be a toll for ticketed airline passengers arriving at or departing from Tijuana International Airport to use the bridge. The toll amount has not been established yet.
"We're very excited about the project because it's additional infrastructure for people working there and just for business, and we know it'll help us attract more companies," said Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce.