A simple pedestrian crossing created the world’s first true binational airport, and boosted the economies on both sides of the border.
SAN DIEGO—”Around lunchtime two days before Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, some 200 business and civic leaders from San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, gathered in a hotel ballroom in downtown San Diego for an event hosted by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. As the assembled professionals, decked out in business-casual attire and speaking a smattering of Spanish and English, munched on cold—not to say rubbery—chicken and green salad and sipped iced tea, the event’s keynote speaker, a UCLA economist named Lee Ohanian, delivered a pessimistic message about the man who was on everybody’s mind.
Trump’s plan to tax imports from Mexico would amount to “shooting [us] in the foot,” Ohanian declared, “with many, many unintended consequences.” Given the aging of the baby boomers and declining U.S. birth rates, Trump’s possible plan to reduce immigration levels would make it “extremely difficult” to achieve increased productivity or GDP growth, he warned. But Ohanian wound up his speech on a positive note: Trump seems like a “person who tends to change his mind,” he said. The crowd laughed nervously.
For the people who do business in Tijuana and San Diego talk, of barriers—whether it’s tariffs or even “big beautiful walls”— is anathema. They know that the health of their “mega region,” as San Diego’s Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer calls it, depends on enhancing the economic integration of the two cities that collectively boast a population of 5 million. (Roughly half live on each side.) One of the most dramatic examples of their commitment to that entwined economy is a bridge that literally crosses above the border fence. In late 2015, a terminal connecting San Diego to the Tijuana airport opened. Funded privately by American and Mexican investors, the Cross Border Xpress has created the world’s first truly binational airport. Each day, thousands of passengers from San Diego now walk easily across the border directly into the Tijuana airport. Conversely, people landing in Tijuana now walk into San Diego after their flights. The project is a striking physical manifestation of the increasing interconnectedness of the two cities.” (…)
Photo@ Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for Politico Magazine, ibidem