The San Diego Union-Tribune reports this morning that San Diego officials want the HSR project to extend its route to the US/Mexico border instead of terminating as currently planned at the Santa Fe depot downtown:
Cindy Gompper-Graves, chief executive officer of the South County Economic Development Council, thinks running the rail to the border would have a positive ripple effect on the region and beyond.
“It's imperative to us that the train continue to South County and not just stop in San Diego,” Gompper-Graves said. “We see it as an engine for economic growth.”
Backers of a South Bay station, perhaps in the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa areas, say it would ease traffic and trade along one of the nation's busiest border crossings.
“Economically, it makes a lot of sense,” said Jim Janney, mayor of Imperial Beach.
Gompper-Graves favors connecting the system to a possible cross-border airport terminal and perhaps running it parallel to state routes 905 and 125.
Quentin Kopp is quoted in the article as being open to the concept, but doesn't want to add too many new stations - the current cap is 24. Obviously a border extension would require new planning efforts and identification of financial resources, and since the San Diego extension itself is still in drawing board stage, not scheduled to open until after 2020, there is time to work out the details.
At first glance this seems like an idea worth studying. The San Diego Trolley does currently serve South County and the border crossing - which is the busiest land crossing in the entire world - but can't bring the capacity that HSR trains could. The extension could boost HSR ridership not just on this segment but on the whole route. Several bus companies make a nice profit providing service from California cities to Tijuana, thousands of potential HSR riders. Cross-border commuters could also be a significant revenue base for the system.
That being said, does this segment have to be served by HSR? Or could it be served by a version of what Rafael has been calling "rapid rail" which might provide faster trains at a reduced cost?
And what would the route look like? One suggestion quoted above was to run the tracks parallel to the 905 and 125 out to the Otay Mesa crossing, which could help relieve San Ysidro and potentially help serve a cross-border airport to relieve Lindbergh Field.
There's a lot to consider here, especially as the San Diego route still has some overall uncertainties - especially since Caltrans has taken up a lot of the ROW along the I-15 corridor that the CHSRA was hoping to use for high speed trains.
Still, the concept is worth a further look, and probably worth an actual study. We shouldn't build a Tijuana extension just because we can, but if the routing is feasible, if the riders will be there, if we can find financing, and if it's made clear that only HSR can best serve this corridor, then we can revisit the concept in a few years' time.
Finally, it's great to see regions of the state looking at HSR and thinking about how it might help them grow and prosper.