How San Diego Built a Bridge Over the Wall
By David Henderson
That’s the title of a great article in Politico by Ethan Epstein. There’s so much interesting in there:
1. How forward-looking San Diegans figured out how to get a better airport without using a military base–and why. (On the latter, try flying into San Diego’s one-runway airport. I’ve done it many times and it’s cool–you are almost at eye level with tall buildings as you land–but the location and the one runway are a tight constraint.)
Around the same time, a new idea began being seriously discussed by Mexican and American authorities and business leaders. Rather than build a runway on the northern side of the border, what if San Diego simply constructed a new terminal, which would provide access to the Tijuana side of the border? That would provide all of the benefits of a binational airport, but without the headaches of runways and taxiways crossing international borders. And better yet–what if the project could be completed using private funds? That made the idea particularly appealing in a traditionally tightwad, conservative area like San Diego.
Clearly, by “tightwad” the author means that they don’t like taxes, which is very different.
The elegant simplicity of the idea is apparent when one visits. The firm that built the CBX [Cross Border Xpress] explains it this way: “Passengers departing from the U.S. park on CBX property, enter the building, check in, walk over the border using the new bridge, and literally descend into [Tijuana airport] to reach their flights. Returning passengers land at [Tijuana], take the bridge across the border, enter the U.S. through the new [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] facility, and emerge from the CBX to take their preferred form of transportation.” Passengers pay a fee–usually around $16–to use the facility. (That’s how the private investors make their money.) And one has to possess a valid boarding pass to use it.
2. How the various players are figuring out how to relieve the congestion at the San Ysidro crossing. It’s called tolls.
The project has also provided an opportunity for enhanced cross-border cooperation. Given that Mexico also has to build new roads to the crossing on the southern side, the idea is that the toll revenues on the American side will be shared with the Mexicans. And because the toll is technically only for the access roads, not the crossing itself, the feds don’t need to get involved. “If we pull this off, this is a new model,” Ducheny says.
3. How to pronounce Tijuana. I now know.
Signs of integration abound. You can hear it in the impeccable Mexican-Spanish pronunciation that even many Anglo San Diegans possess; the city to their south is named “Tee-hwana,” not “Tee-a-wanna,” they remind visitors.
But none of these excerpts does justice to the article. I found the whole piece spiritually uplifting. Ethan Epstein has a real flair.
HT2 Tyler Cowen.