When about 70,000 Seventh Day Adventists cross under Interstate 37 to get back and forth to events this week and next at the Alamodome and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, they won't have to navigate through construction and dangerous intersections to do so. A 32-foot wide bridge, part of the $37.4 million Market Street realignment project, will convey visitors safely from one side to the other without traffic lights or stop signs. The bridge is now open, but finishing touches are still being made.
Market Street's makeover will make way for the $325 million Convention Center expansion project next to the pedestrian bridge – visitors using the new bridge will have an excellent view of the construction and a straight shot from the Convention Center to the elevated, main entrance level of the Alamodome. Landscaping and decorative elements still need to be installed, but the $1.6 million bridge is essentially complete with lighting for evening passageway. Construction started in January.
To compensate for increased foot traffic, a lane of Market Street has been closed as well as the new Tower of the Americas Way that runs parallel to I-37, said Melissa Sparks of the City's Transportation and Capital Improvement department. The streets will re-open to full capacity on July 13.
Commuter traffic surrounding the Convention Center should expect delays as should travelers using the San Antonio International Airport starting Wednesday. The airport's website has information and tips for passengers to avoid speed-walking to gates including arriving two hours before flight time, checking in/printing boarding passes early online, and using credit-card only lanes to enter.
The conference will be the largest and longest San Antonio has hosted yet, said Brenda Square, director of destination services at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, while giving a tour to church leadership Tuesday afternoon.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church's 10-day, 60th Quinquennial General Conference Session starts Thursday and is expected to be one of the largest conferences in San Antonio's history. The session – during which more than 3,000 delegates from around the world will vote on church leadership and other fundamental changes – has been held every five years since 1970. According to the church's official website, there are nearly 18.5 million Adventists in the world practicing in more than 200 countries.
According to the Express-News, "The issue of whether women should be allowed to be ordained is expected to be voted on during the conference. In the past, the denomination has voted against it."
The church partnered with Adventist-Laymen’s Services & Industries to give away health care to thousands of people in April at the Alamodome during Your Best Pathway to Health, a three-day free clinic. The clinic offered more than $10 million worth of treatment, including primary care, with referrals to specialists and pediatricians when necessary. Some patients even received minor surgical procedures, physical and occupational therapy, women’s health counseling, and mental, dental, and vision services. More than 1,700 volunteers participated in the event, from medical professionals to social services agencies.
A much smaller version of the clinic, InStep4Life, is set for July 5 from 9 a.m. to noon in La Villita's Maverick Plaza.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church was founded in the mid-1800s and, as its name suggests, its followers observe Sabbath, a day of rest, on the seventh day (Saturday, but technically starts on Friday at sundown).
*Featured/top image: Construction workers paint a railing on the new pedestrian bridge. Photo by Scott Ball.