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Mexico Agrees to Talk About Binational Airport

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After initial meetings this week with a San Diego-area delegation, Mexican officials have agreed to further talks on the proposed binational airport on Otay Mesa, which would be run jointly by Tijuana and San Diego.

A senior official in the Mexican Communications and Transportation Ministry said Friday that the government is willing to discuss the idea, but would prefer that U.S. federal officials be included in future talks.

The two sides agreed to create an informal joint study group to explore the issue further, said delegate Jack Doyle, mayor of Santee and president of the San Diego Assn. of Governments.

“Just to have a willingness (from the Mexican government) to participate with us in gathering more information is encouraging,” Doyle said.

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The meetings Thursday and Friday were the first direct attempt to gauge the Mexican government’s interest in a binational airport, although San Diego officials have discussed the possibility intermittently for 20 years. Advocates see a binational airport as the best solution to crowding and lack of room for expansion at Lindbergh Field.

The Mexican government’s willingness to consider the airport is seen as an encouraging sign after reports in August that Communications and Transportation Secretary Andres Caso Lombardo opposed the idea.

“They have an ongoing plan and feel that their needs will be adequately met with their current plan,” Doyle said after meeting with officials in the ministry. “However, they said they would be willing to look at other information.”

The proposal is to build an airport between Brown Field Air Station on Otay Mesa and Tijuana’s Rodriguez International Airport. Baja California state officials have called for expansion of Rodriguez airport, saying it is crowded and needs more air-control equipment.

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The California-Mexico Project at the University of Southern California has termed the airport one of “several worthwhile proposals that have thus far been stymied by funding constraints or by the political hurdles to cross-border projects.”

However, opponents Reps. Jim Bates (R-San Diego) and Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado) and San Diego City Councilman Bob Filner say the idea is impractical because of jurisdiction complications.

Binational airport advocate Ron Roberts, whose City Council district includes Lindbergh Field, has said the critics dismiss the project “without even trying.”

Roberts led the delegation that also included Doyle, County Supervisor Leon Williams, Port Commissioner Dan Larsen and Kenneth E. Sulzer, executive director of the San Diego Assn. of Governments.

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The delegation met with Gustavo Patino, undersecretary of operations at the Communications and Transportation Ministry, which oversees airports, as well as Tourism Secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and representatives from the Commerce Department, the presidential staff and private industry.

One observer said the Mexican officials appeared interested in the idea, although not enthusiastic.


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