Britain's roads have hardly improved since the Romans left the country, the RAC Foundation says in a report.
The AA says the government sees motorists as "wallets on wheels"
It says that without a coherent long-term vision for transport, the UK is on the "road to ruin".
The AA, meanwhile, called for proposals to raise fuel duty by 2p a litre in next week's Budget to be dropped.
The Department of Transport said the notion that transport conditions in Britain had not improved in 16 centuries "was absurd".
In a statement, it added: "To suggest [transport] has not improved in recent years is plain wrong."
Sheila Rainger, acting director of the RAC Foundation, said that badly-planned and poorly-configured road building programmes needed to become a thing of the past.
"Road-user charging could be part of the future solution, but recent debate has shown this idea to be less popular than turnpikes [toll roads]", she said.
Meanwhile the AA accused the government of reneging on promises to create a ring-fenced fund for transport, paid for by increases in fuel duty.
AA president Edmund King said: "All road users are suffering from record pump prices.
"Perhaps the resentment felt by motorists would not be so great if people could see the government was ploughing more of the revenues into ring-fenced transport funds, as promised by Gordon Brown back in 1999.
"High fuel taxes would be more palatable if there was higher transport spending. At present many motorists see themselves as wallets on wheels - always paying out without getting much back. "
The Treasury said it would not be commenting on any possible changes to fuel duty in advance of the Budget on 11 March.
But a spokesman told the BBC that since 1999 fuel duty was 11% lower in real terms which meant there were no additional funds to ring-fence.