The Cross Border Xpress is a 390-foot-long, glass-enclosed span over the barbed-wire fence here that separates Southern California from Tijuana International Airport, which sits just a few feet south of the border. The goal is to let U.S. travelers walk from San Diego to the Tijuana airport, where they can fly to other Mexican and international destinations. Tijuana has a direct flight to Shanghai, for example. San Diego doesn’t.
The bridge, which opened in December, marks the latest effort by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to keep up with the surge of international travel by using private money to expand at a time of small federal budget increases. Airports, are paying for additional officers to screen fliers themselves. The government of Abu Dhabi funded a facility to handle screening in the United Arab Emirates so travelers to the U.S. can have passport and customs checks before takeoff and avoid long lines after landing.
The facility, paid for by Mexican and American investors, including real-estate magnate Sam Zell, appears to be reducing congestion at the overcrowded border checkpoints in San Diego and actually increasing security, says Joe Misenhelter, CBP’s local assistant port director. The bridge gives CBP a new high-tech facility and additional agents, and improves screening at other checkpoints by reducing the crowds a bit. Tijuana’s airport has room to grow and sits just over 20 miles from the very crowded airport in San Diego, which has one runway.
Fliers leaving San Diego simply show their boarding passes and bridge tickets, then walk straight into duty-free shopping that leads to the bridge itself. On the other side is a Mexican immigration checkpoint that opens to the Tijuana airport terminal lobby... The bridge charges $12 per flier each way ($40 for families up to six people). If traffic builds, CBX has big plans for development: a multistory parking garage, two hotels, some retail and a gas station, says chief commercial officer Elizabeth Brown
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