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Author Topic: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)  (Read 9705 times)

oscar

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Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« on: March 16, 2013, 11:37:37 PM »

During my recently-concluded month-long cross-country road trip to California, I included a detour into Mexico, to travel the Mexico 2D toll road between Tijuana and Mexicali.  I needed to make the turn east from San Diego to start my way home, and have way too often traveled I-8 and other alternate routes east into California's Imperial Valley, so I really wanted a change of pace.

This was my first foray into Mexico, other than a high school Spanish class field trip into Tijuana in the early 1970s, and a short and nervous drive from El Paso into Ciudad Juarez before border-zone violence got really awful there.  Hearing all the stories of violence along the Baja California border, I consulted the State Department travel advisories for Mexico, and followed the advice to proceed with caution (halfway between the lowest warning level, and the maximum "defer all non-essential travel"), doing the drive in daylight and sticking to the main Federal highways (yes, that's what they're called down there).  No problems on that front.

I crossed into Tijuana from San Diego at the eastern Otay Mesa crossing, in part to clinch future I-905, but mainly to minimize my time slogging through downtown Tijuana.  But first I exchanged currency at a store in San Ysidro near I-5, since AAA (where I purchased the mandatory Mexican auto insurance policy) warned me that currency exchange might not be available at the largely commercial-traffic Otay Mesa crossing.  I was a little surprised at being subjected to a light secondary search by Mexican customs (two or three minutes), but then I was driving a pickup truck with a camper shell that kind of looks like a good smuggling vehicle.  At least there was no obvious interest in my electronic gear, there or by U.S. customs on the way back -- the only stated interest was in drugs, illegal passengers, and food in my possession. 

A few blocks of free surface streets later, I was on the toll road.  The first few kms of the toll road were divided, with lots of at-grade crossings and adjacent businesses, but at least the toll collection didn't begin until the access control began.  Both at the beginning of the toll road and at some exits along the way (no exit tolls, only barrier tolls collected between exits), there were the usual U.S. fast-food brand restaurants.  But only Pemex gas stations, a Mexican government monopoly.  Most if not all toll plazas had toilets.  While it looked like electronic toll payment was an option, there are tolltakers to collect cash tolls.  No problem with my limited knowledge of Spanish.  One tolltaker seemed unhappy when I gave him a 200-peso note (about $16 U.S.) for a much smaller toll (hey, that's what I got at the currency exchange!), but a few seconds of a dumb look on my face persuaded him to just give me change on the 200 rather than press further for a smaller bill I didn't have.

Between Tijuana and the mountains west of Mexicali, the toll road was a four-lane divided freeway, more resembling the older sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike than the usual U.S interstate.  Speed limits topped out at 110 km/h, though speed limit reductions were more common than with U.S. Interstates, particularly on the mountain sections (see below).

Around Mexicali, the toll road is a Super-2.  One unusual feature of the latter is that most of the bridges over the toll road were only half-completed.  Where the bridge was not open to traffic, the north end of the partial bridge (where it would cross over the separate westbound roadway, if there had been one) was left dangling in mid-air.  More often, there was a temporary embankment to carry traffic up to the incomplete bridge, which presumably will be cut back (and the bridge completed) if and when the toll road ever gets twinned around Mexicali.  This really could've used a photo, but I was too chicken to attempt roadside photography at those spots.

I did take a few photos from scenic pullouts on the extremely twisty toll road segment through the mountains west of Mexicali, where like on the California side the toll road descends a few thousand feet (from elevations not quite as high as I-8's, but high enough there was snow on the ground near the pavement).  Like with Interstate 8, there is a spread median, with the two two-lane roadways roughly parallel but often with a few hundred feet separation both horizontally and vertically:



Unlike I-8, many of the curves are posted at only 40km/h (~25 mph), preceded by rumble strips and with warnings of radar enforcement by Federal police patrols.  That meant for slow going -- I certainly didn't save any time heading east through Mexico than using I-8, though I didn't lose so much time as to preclude my return to the U.S. in daylight.

Here's one of the other photos I took, this one with a view of the eastbound highway from another scenic eastbound pullout:



There were two checkpoints along the way (I think both east of the mountains), one military checkpoint where the smiling soldier with what looked like a submachine gun waved me through, and a Federal police checkpoint where the patrolmen didn't bother getting out of their cars. 

After clinching the toll road on the east side of Mexicali, I continued on free Mexico 2 to the border crossing south of Yuma AZ at San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora estado, thereby increasing my piddly estado count from two to three.  The free route through Baja California was a divided expressway with grade separations at intersections, but also some roadside businesses.  Crossing the Colorado River, after paying another toll for the bridge, Mexico 2 through San Luis devolved into yet another city street, but passing very close to the border so I had little trouble finding and getting into the long line for the border crossing at US 95. 

The next day, I did a shorter trip into Nogales, Sonora, since I had time to kill (too windy to visit hot springs on the Arizona side of the border, as planned), and a day left over on my short-term Mexican auto insurance policy.  That was just a drive through congested downtown Nogales on Mexico 15 (continuing south from the I-19 business loop in Nogales AZ), then back on the Mexico 15D toll bypass (meets AZ 189 west of Nogales).  I was, of course, subjected to a secondary search re-entering the U.S., though quicker and friendlier than at San Luis.  I've just resigned myself to that possibility, and allow plenty of time for border crossings.  After clearing U.S. customs, I exchanged my remaining Mexico pesos, except a stray 2-peso coin I found later, at a gas station along AZ 189.

I remembered just enough Spanish from four years of high school Spanish in the early 1970s, and a four-day weekend in Puerto Rico in 2002, to get by.  But Mexican road signs had more unfamiliar words than Puerto Rican road signs, so in the unlikely event I ever do this again, I'll want to do a refresher on roadside Spanish before crossing over.

On the whole, it was an interesting and not unpleasant change of pace from driving on the U.S. side of the border.  But I'm not particularly interested in doing it again, either.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 12:20:34 PM by oscar »
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vdeane

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Re: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2013, 11:38:42 AM »

sticking to the main Federal highways (yes, that's what they're called down there).
Does Mexico employ viatologists?

Quote
Around Mexicali, the toll road is a Super-2.  One unusual feature of the latter is that most of the bridges over the toll road were only half-completed.  Where the bridge was not open to traffic, the north end of the partial bridge (where it would cross over the separate westbound roadway, if there had been one) was left dangling in mid-air.  More often, there was a temporary embankment to carry traffic up to the incomplete bridge, which presumably will be cut back (and the bridge completed) if and when the toll road ever gets twinned around Mexicali.  This really could've used a photo, but I was too chicken to attempt roadside photography at those spots.
http://goo.gl/maps/34KtS

Quote
I did take a few photos from scenic pullouts on the extremely twisty toll road segment through the mountains west of Mexicali, where like on the California side the road descends a few thousand feet.  Like with Interstate 8, there is a spread median, with the two two-lane roadways roughly parallel but often with a few hundred feet separation both horizontally and vertically:
There's also this: http://goo.gl/maps/UVZo9
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agentsteel53

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Re: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2013, 03:51:20 PM »

La Rumorosa is the name of the winding grade on MX-2.  it's one of my favorite drives.

I am surprised I did not take a photo of one of the half-built overpasses, but here are my photos anyway of a similar drive.

https://www.aaroads.com/blog/2010/08/18/san-felipe-ii/
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Stephane Dumas

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Re: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2013, 07:08:10 PM »

A bit off-topic but I spotted this video of the new El Chaparral entry in Tijuana with the temporairy detour until the new soundboud lanes will be completed.
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vdeane

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Re: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2013, 10:28:13 PM »

What are the plans for how I-5 is supposed to connect permanently?  I can't think of any way to do it without the sharp turns.
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mtantillo

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Re: Trip report: Tijuana-Mexicali toll road (Mex 2D)
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2013, 05:01:19 PM »

What are the plans for how I-5 is supposed to connect permanently?  I can't think of any way to do it without the sharp turns.

Less sharp, but still pretty sharp, turns will be added north of the border.  An outbound US Customs inspection facility will be part of that construction as well. 
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