The City Council yesterday approved a $9.9 million contract for the reconstruction of Hillsborough Street (Phase I) between Oberlin Road and Gardner Street. It only took … how many years?

(A: Here’s a story from 2002, three years after the first plan was hatched and the Hillsborough Street Partnership created.)

The big idea has always been to preserve the street’s historic place and purpose while modernizing its function so businesses there can thrive and some new housing can be introduced — no easy task. Hillsborough Street connects just about everything that’s important in Raleigh’s history, from the State Capitol to N.C. State to the Fairgrounds (and the state’s agricultural heritage) to Raleigh’s first neighborhoods, gardens, businesses, and multi-purpose arena with skyboxes. But any more, it’s kind of a mess, when it should be — drum roll, please — a lovely street where people can stroll, stop, pop a brew and take it all in about the place they live. “A great street,” in short.

Phase I of the project includes the first roundabout on Hillsborough Street itself, which will be in front of the NCSU Bell Tower at the Pullen Road intersection. A second, complementary roundabout will be located at Pullen Road and Oberlin Road, a brand-new intersection that will be created by extending Pullen Road across Hillsborough Street through what’s now a parking lot. There’s already a roundabout on Pullen Road that serves as an entrance to Pullen Park, the Theater in the Park and the west edge of the NCSU campus.

The new street will have a 7-foot wide raised median and two traffic lanes, not four. Left-hand turns will be eliminated, which should — the engineers tell us — allow just as much traffic to flow through on two lanes, slowly but steadily, as can now herk and jerk its way through on four. Here’s a city summary of the project.

And here, from the Hillsborough Street Partnership website, is a flyover simulation of the project by Kimley-Horn, the designers: Hillsborough Street flyover

The vote on Council was 6-2. Councilor Philip Isley, never a fan, voted no because he thinks it’s a waste of money. Councilor Rodger Koopman voted no because he thinks, given the city’s revenue shortfalls and looming budget hole, the project should be postponed — again.