A new study released Thursday on the proposed so-called TwinPorts binational airport suggests that it could generate $2.5 billion in annual revenues for the region and create more than 58,000 jobs by the year 2040.
"This first initial phase is telling us that it is feasible," said Steve Castaneda, an aide to San Diego City Councilman Ron Roberts, a TwinPorts proponent. "It shows that the city of San Diego and the Tijuana region, working together to bring about this facility, really would be a successful partnership."
The proposed TwinPorts would straddle the U.S.-Mexico border on a 3,000-acre site on Otay Mesa. The airport would be jointly developed by the two countries, which would share runways, taxiways and a control tower, but would have separate passenger terminals and customs facilities.
Conducted by P&D; Technologies, the study examined the economic benefits the United States and Mexico could each reap from the TwinPorts plan, which is expected to generate 3,750 jobs in Tijuana alone and 26,350 new jobs throughout Mexico by the year 2020, Castaneda said.
The study also determined that alignment between the two countries' runways is technically feasible, a point of contention between the plan's friends and foes.
The San Diego City Council received nearly all of the $160,000 needed to pay for the study from a grant by the Federal Aviation Administration. The city chose to examine TwinPorts after selecting it as the preferred option, among several last May, for a new commercial airport to supplement Lindbergh Field.
The report's findings come just days before the council is scheduled to vote on whether to extend a moratorium on residential development at a proposed TwinPorts site on Otay Mesa. Council members Monday also will decide whether to request another FAA grant for additional studies.
Proponents of the plan also point to a letter by Carl Schellenberg, regional administrator for the FAA, which also notes the technical feasibility and apparent economic benefits of the TwinPorts option.
"This is a study done for the federal and local governments that definitively shows the technological and economic benefits from the airport," Lee Grissom, president of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said at a Thursday press conference. "It also shows we will have limited our future economically if we don't proceed with this concept."
County Supervisor Brian Bilbray, a TwinPorts opponent, maintained in an interview Thursday that he believes political motivations are fueling the debate over the concept, which he continued to deem as economically unfeasible.
"They're trying to do CPR for TwinPorts, and they will continue to do it until June 2, then the issue of its political expediency will be moot because the race for the mayor will be over with," Bilbray said. "I can't believe they continue to try and resuscitate this thing. . . . The politics of this game has just been outrageous."
But Castaneda disputed the allegations, citing Roberts' commitment to San Diegans. Roberts is one of six candidates in the race to succeed San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor.
"Ron has some very, very strong views and a commitment to San Diego to see that we build the kind of city and economic base that will provide opportunities for the people who live here now," Castaneda said.