A decision on plans to widen the motorway is expected in November
Plans to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder of the M6 in Warwickshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire have been confirmed by ministers.
Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said £6bn would be spent across the West Midlands region and the scheme would be eventually extended to the M5 and M1.
The news comes after a pilot on the M42 near Birmingham to tackle congestion.
The first of the work, between junctions 8 and 10a of the M6, is expected to start in April.
The rest of the work will then be staggered, finishing with the hard shoulder of the M6 being used between junctions 10a and 13, at Stafford, in 2015.
Work will also be carried out to improve the Catthorpe Interchange at junction 19 of the M1 in Warwickshire.
Developments are expected to start there by March 2012.
The hard shoulder scheme could eventually be extended to include the remaining stretch of the M6 up to Manchester, the M5 between junctions 4a and 6, south of Birmingham, and the M1 between junctions 13 and 19, south of Rugby, Warwickshire.
Mr Hoon said: "We have successfully and safely opened up the motorway hard shoulder on the M42 at busy times, giving us confidence that we can do the same elsewhere on the network."
Stafford MP David Kidney, who had been campaigning for the hard shoulder scheme to be extended to Staffordshire, said he welcomed the announcement.
Mr Kidney had said he hoped the use of the extra lane would rule out the need to widen the M6 in his constituency.
He said he would now write to Mr Hoon to see if this would be the case.
The Green Party said it was "motorway-widening on the cheap" but said it would be good news for the countryside if the widening plans for the M6 were dropped altogether.