On May 30, the Latinos and Planning Division and Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division presented the first in a series of webinars that are focusing on cross-border planning in the US / Mexico Border Region. The partnership between these two divisions to produce this webinar series was endorsed by the APA Divisions Council as a “pilot project” that would allow the use of the APA National Office’s technical webinar production capabilities while providing an opportunity for smaller divisions to develop high-quality webinar content and to generate revenues to support other division activities.

The educational goals of the initial webinar were to:

  • Describe some of the unique transportation needs and challenges in the California / Baja California border region;
  • Discuss the collaborative approach that was used to prepare the California / Baja California Border Master Plan (see Figure 1), and describe how this plan has been used by several of the major planning partners since its adoption; and
  • Highlight some of major transportation planning issues that have been identified within the municipalities along this border, and describe innovative efforts to address these issues through collaboration at all governmental levels.

After a brief introduction by Bob Leiter, Immediate Past Chair of the Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division, and Monica Villalobos, Chair of the Latinos and Planning Division, the speakers dove right in to introduce the collaborative projects and plans underway in the California-Baja California region.

  • First, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Principal Planner Elisa Arias thoroughly explained how SANDAG, as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for San Diego County, encourages such collaboration through their establishment of a Borders Committee, and the Committee on Binational Regional Opportunities (COBRO) working group, within their organizational structure.  Ms. Arias also described their accomplishments in planning for the binational region, including: the California-Baja California Border Master Plan; the Economic Impacts of Border Wait Times at the San Diego-Baja California Border Region Report; the San Diego and Imperial Valley Comprehensive Freight Gateway Study, and the ongoing San Ysidro-Puerta de Mexico Land Port of Entry (POE) Expansion Project.
  •  Following Ms. Arias was Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC) Executive Director Mark Baza, who similarly explained Imperial County’s role, including a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for an Imperial Valley/Mexicali binational working group to discuss infrastructure along the border, economic development and environmental border issues.  Binational planning efforts in which ICTC has played an integral role include the Calexico-Mexicali Land Port of Entry Expansion Project, the Calexico Intermodal Transportation Center Feasibility Study, and a Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Access Study of the California/Baja California Land POEs.
  • Next, Carlos Lopez, Director of the Urban Planning Department for the State of Baja California (Secretaria De Infraestructura y Desarrollo Urbano del Estado – SIDUE), discussed Baja California’s infrastructure plan, as well as on the their role in some of the projects and plans mentioned by the previous two presenters, including the significant California-Baja California Border Master Plan.  SIDUE has also played an integral role in the expansions and creation of the Land POEs, from the Baja California perspective, at El Chaparral (San Ysidro), Mesa de Otay II (Otay Mesa East), and Tecate.
  • Rodolfo Argote, Director of Land Use Planning for the Metropolitan Planning Institute of Tijuana (Instituto Metropolitano de Planeación – IMPLAN), then presented on Tijuana’s transportation and infrastructure projects proposed in their long-range Metropolitan Strategic Plan 2034 (Plan Estratégico Metropolitano 2034 – PEM 2034), and how it was influenced by binational collaboration.  Finally, Mr. Argote shared the efforts to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service in the City of Tijuana.
  • Finally, Juventino Perez Brambila, Director of the Municipal Institute of Research and Urban Planning of Mexicali (Instituto Municipal de Investigación y Planeación Urbana de Mexicali – IMIP), discussed similar efforts for BRT in the City of Mexicali that will connect to their expanded Port of Entry.
  • Overall, the 90-minute webinar packed an immense amount of information, yet information that is sorely needed, as it demonstrated in great detail how various agencies at the federal, state, regional, and local levels of governments across an international border can work collaboratively to implement transportation plans and projects to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

In addition, this webinar was a successful “pilot project” from a technical standpoint.  With over 50 paid participants, the webinar generated revenues for both divisions, and the webcasting and registration services provided by the APA National office went smoothly.  We also received great assistance from the Transportation Planning Division and several State Chapters and Sections in publicizing the event.  The two divisions are now working on a second webinar focusing on collaborative planning along the Texas / Mexico border to be held this fall, and have agreed to start working on a third webinar focused on cross-border economic development  which will be held in late fall.