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California cross-border airport clears key hurdle

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airporSAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday that it has reached agreement with an investor group to clear the way for construction of the nation’s first cross-border airport terminal connecting San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

The agreement requires the investor group to pay the salaries of U.S. border inspectors and the cost of inspection facilities on a pedestrian bridge from Tijuana’s existing airport into the United States, Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said during a brief interview on a visit to San Diego. He said he expects construction to begin on the U.S. side next month.

Construction has already begun on the Mexican side at Tijuana International Airport.

Otay Tijuana Venture — a partnership that includes Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell’s Equity Group Investments and Tijuana’s airport operator, Grupo Aeropuatario del Pacifico — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pete Flores, CBP’s field office director in San Diego, said the investor group has said it will take 15 months to complete construction on the U.S. side. The sponsor has told U.S. officials that it anticipates 1.5 million passengers in the first year, based only on already existing flights.

Many Tijuana airport users live in the U.S. and take taxis to and from nearby land crossings. U.S. officials hope the cross-border terminal will ease congestion at those land crossings.

The pedestrian bridge will be only for ticketed passengers, who will carry their luggage from the Tijuana side to enter the U.S., Flores said.

The terminal will paid for by user fees. The investor group has not said how much travelers will be required to pay.

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