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New US-Mexico border crossing: No wall, but a bridge between airports

An $18 toll bridge allows airline passengers to cross the US-Mexico border between airports in San Diego and Tijuana. 

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A photo taken in Tijuana, Mexico, as vehicles pass under a walking bridge that connects the new Cross Border Xpress air terminal in San Diego, right, to the Tijuana International Airport, left. The new terminal is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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The U.S.-Mexico border is one of the world's most fortified international divides. Starting Wednesday, it will also be one of the only that has an airport straddling two countries.

An investor group that includes Chicago billionaire Sam Zell built a sleek terminal in San Diego with a bridge that crosses a razor-wire border fence to Tijuana's decades-old airport. Passengers pay $18 to walk to Tijuana A.L. Rodriguez International Airport, a springboard to about 30 Mexican destinations.

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Target customers are the estimated 60 percent of Tijuana airport passengers who come to the United States, nearly 3 million a year. Now they drive about 15 minutes to a congested land crossing, where they wait up to several hours to enter San Diego by car or on foot.

The San Diego Tribune reports:

Users of the privately operated port of entry, called the Cross Border Xpress, will be charged for each crossing. Enrique Valle, chief executive officer of Otay Tijuana Ventures, builder and operator of $120 million facility, said Friday that the toll will be $15 for those who purchase tickets ahead of time on the facility’s website — and $18 for those who pay on location.

The only port of entry on the U.S. border that connects directly to an airport in Mexico, the Cross Border Xpress also will be the first on the California border where users will be charged a toll. Only ticketed airline passengers will be able to use the facility.

Located 22 miles from downtown San Diego, the Tijuana airport is the second best connected airport in Mexico, with flights to more than 30 Mexican destinations. For passengers, “the main benefits are more destinations, direct destinations and lower prices,” Valle said.

The new Otay Mesa facility will include both long-term and short-term parking areas. A range of ground transportation options will be available as well, including shuttle services to transport passengers to and from the San Diego airport and downtown, Valle said. Taxi and Uber service will also be offered

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