But even detoured Philly commuters admitted Sunday that it was at least mildly thrilling to see a roaring Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter buzzing past City Hall and hovering just feet above street level.
Hope you like your contact lenses gritty.
“God bless the United States!” said Perparim Kodra, 67, an Albanian native living in Northeast Philadelphia.
Tears were streaming down Kodra’s cheeks from the chopper’s heavy gusts, which kicked up clouds of dirt and sent the closest onlookers at the corner of Broad Street and JFK Boulevard staggering backward.
The airlifts -- part of a project to replace HVAC equipment at 2000 Market St. -- required intermittent road closures starting early Sunday morning from City Hall to 21st Street. SEPTA buses were detoured and street access was restricted for people riding the subway, trolley and regional rail.
“That was pretty crazy,” said Randi Lenzing, who watched the scene with her 8-year-old son, Lucas. “He’s never seen anything like this before.”
“I thought it would be windier,” Lucas said, after the helicopter dropped off gear near the corner of 15th and JFK.
But when it came back a second time, it landed much closer. The downwash of its rotor physically pushed the City Hall crowd away -- and left Lucas more impressed.
“Better the second time,” he said.
Elsewhere in Center City, pedestrians held hundreds of phones to the sky in unison when the helicopter returned for another delivery. Underground, in the concourse, some wandered around trying to figure out how to get back to street level.
“Any time you change the normal routine, there’s confusion,” said one SEPTA employee who was giving directions. “We’ll get through this,” she laughed.
By late morning, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said the transit agency hadn’t received a higher than usual amount of complaints or inquires.
“We put a lot of information out ahead of time, so we’re hoping that reached people and they were aware of it,” Busch said.
SEPTA said the airlift would affect subway, trolley, Regional Rail, and bus operations between 4 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Inside the concourse, you’re in good shape," Busch said. “But the usual exit that you take, if it’s in that zone, is temporarily unavailable.”
As for driving around Center City? Forget it.
“We had to go around the entire perimeter” of the lift zone, said Grover Cantwell, who was in town from Washington for his son’s hockey tournament.
Cantwell parked his car and walked over near City Hall to take in some of the lift action before heading to see the Liberty Bell. He didn’t seem to mind the travel obstacles.