Building Bridges Along the California and Mexico Border

Today, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) joins United States and Mexican officials and dignitaries in celebrating the formal inauguration of the Cross Border Xpress, an international border crossing that connects airport passengers in San Diego directly to the Tijuana International Airport via an enclosed pedestrian sky bridge.

The 390-foot bridge has reduced travel times from several hours to a matter of minutes for the more than two million Tijuana International Airport passengers who cross the border each year.

Prior to the opening of the Cross Border Xpress in December 2015, Tijuana International Airport passengers crossed the border at the congested San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, enduring unpredictable border wait times and routine delays of up to two hours.

According to a 2007 study by the San Diego Association of Governments, border crossing traffic and delays cost the U.S. and Mexican economies an estimated $7.2 billion in gross output and more than 62,000 jobs annually. Vehicle congestion at all border crossings between San Diego and Tijuana also has a negative impact on air quality in surrounding communities.

Now an average of 2,000 passengers per day – up to 5,000 during peak holiday travel periods – are using the 24-hour Cross Border Xpress to avoid those unnecessary delays.

In 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. participated in a trade mission to Mexico where he committed to expand environmental and economic cooperation between the two neighbors. The Cross Border Xpress is just one example of the successful bridge building currently underway to increase California and Mexico cross-border collaboration and reduce border wait times.

California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is partnering with local, state and federal stakeholders in the U.S. and Mexico on the creation of the state’s first tolled vehicle border crossing. The flagship Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry, expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2018, will further reduce border crossing wait times and facilitate more efficient movement of traffic between California and Mexico.

Innovative solutions – like the Cross Border Xpress and Otay Mesa East – that create safe and efficient transportation connections between California and Mexico are vital to achieving the region’s economic, health, and air quality objectives.

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New Binational Group Has First Meeting on Otay Mesa East Port Of Entry Project

A binational, multi-agency oversight committee – created under a memorandum of understanding signed last June between California and Mexico – has begun working on policy solutions and key milestones that will advance the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry (POE) Project.

Last month, members of the committee – representatives from the California State Transportation Agency, Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation, and SANDAG – convened for the first time. During the November 19 meeting, stakeholders agreed to explore options for early right-of-way acquisition on both sides of the border for the proposed POE. In addition, they set a goal to reach a consensus in the coming months on the revenue projections for the proposed toll road associated with the new border crossing.

Designed to reduce border congestion and wait times, the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East project will feature a new four-lane tolled highway, a commercial vehicle enforcement facility, and a new POE. The first segment of State Route 11, which started construction in December 2013, includes connectors to State Route 905 plus a stretch of new highway from State Route 905 east to Enrico Fermi Drive. SANDAG and Caltrans, in partnership with their Mexican counterparts and other key stakeholders, are formulating a plan to finance this new border crossing with a combination of tolls and other funding sources.

The project is the result of collaboration by a number of key local, state, and federal agencies in both the United States and Mexico, including the General Services Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, Mexico’s Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, and Mexican Customs/Aduanas.

New momentum is building to get the project done. On July 30, 2014, highlighting the importance of goods movement and international trade, State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly signed a MOU with Raúl Murrieta Cummings, Undersecretary of Infrastructure for the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, to resolve policy issues and review major milestones through the ongoing development of the project.

“The fact that Mexico is entering into an agreement with California to improve our shared port of entry reflects the important role of international trade and commerce between California and Mexico,” California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly said in July when executing the memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Transportation of the United Mexican States. “This partnership between Mexico and California will help strengthen our land connection and the tens of billions of dollars in commerce that flows through our mutual border.”

Congested border crossings between the San Diego area and Tijuana cost the U.S. and Mexican economies billions of dollars in economic losses every year. In addition, border congestion is also detrimental to air quality.

The State Route 11/Otay Mesa East POE project will be built in three phases. The first segment, now under construction, will build a stretch of the freeway from SR 905 east to Enrico Fermi Drive and the State Routes 905 and 11 freeway-to-freeway connectors, linking the future port to the rest of the highway system.

Segment Two will extend State Route 11 from Enrico Fermi Drive to Siempre Viva Road and include a new Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility (CVEF). The entire length of the highway will be 2.5 miles. Segment Three will build the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry.


Future plans call for toll roads approaching the border crossing – allowing travelers the opportunity to pay a fee to get to the border more quickly, drastically reducing the lengthy wait times they currently endure.

Caltrans is the lead agency for the planning, design, and construction of the toll road portion of the project. SANDAG is the tolling authority, and is also spearheading the design and construction of the POE.