Like many 50-year-olds, the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway is showing its age. The time has come for a face-lift.

A $65 million resurfacing and bridge rehabilitation project is getting under way this month on 27 miles of the Addams (Interstate Highway 90) from the northwest suburbs to Belvidere. The roadway is a corrugated patchwork of asphalt, with plenty of filled-in potholes.

It’s the biggest new highway project of the 2011 construction season in the Chicago area and could aggravate hundreds of thousands of motorists this summer as they try to escape to places like the Wisconsin Dells. Even those fall trips to Madison or Galena won’t be easy, because roadwork will linger through the end of the year.

The project, which calls for grinding off the asphalt and adding a fresh layer of blacktop, is just a quick fix, only good for the next five to seven years, officials say. What the Addams really needs is a top-to-bottom reconstruction and widening.

But building an all-concrete highway — the kind of reconstruction work seen in recent years on the rest of the tollway system — would cost at least $1.9 billion, an amount beyond the tollway’s means, officials say.

Also out of reach are more ambitious options for other parts of the Addams, such as adding lanes and stations for express bus service, high-occupancy toll lanes and extra right of way for the long-anticipated but ill-fated Metra STAR Line.

The Illinois Toll Highway

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