Road pricing in the West Midlands and Shrewsbury moved a step closer with the announcement of £7m in funding to look into ways of tackling congestion.
Motorists already pay to use the M6 Toll road
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling revealed the seven local authorities receiving extra government cash at the CBI's annual conference on Monday.
He said the aim was to test approaches to road pricing as part of an effort to introduce a national scheme.
Councils will now conduct feasibility studies into traffic cutting options.
The chosen seven have successfully bid for the money from an £18m government fund set up to develop public transport schemes and cut congestion.
"We are looking forward to working with these authorities to develop practical solutions to congestion problems and support the development of a national road pricing scheme," Mr Darling said.
Fee on busy routes
His comments followed calls by the CBI for major improvements to the national transport system.
A survey for the organisation suggests more than half of British businesses believe the network is worse now than it was five years ago.
The CBI's director general, Sir Digby Jones, blamed what he called a decrepit and outdated planning regime which gave top priority to environmental arguments.
He said the government needed to invest much more cash.
Mr Darling acknowledged on BBC Radio 4's Today programme people wanted to see faster progress in improving the transport infrastructure.
He said more was being spent on the roads, railways and other parts of the system.
Councils in the West Midlands will get the biggest share of the £7m but have made it clear they will not impose a London-style congestion charge.
Instead it is more likely that drivers would pay to use the busiest routes.
Shropshire County Council said it was getting nearly £500,000 and will investigate various options in Shrewsbury, including better public transport, more pedestrian priority, tackling congestion hotspots, road charging and a north-west relief road.
The first stage will be a feasibility study and public consultation to develop a congestion management strategy, probably by next year.
A spokesman for National Alliance Against Tolls said: "Almost no one wants tolls. Today the CBI, though they are in favour of tolls, released a survey which showed that only one fifth (of respondents) back tolls.
"In the only referendum on the issue, held in Edinburgh in February, the tolls plan was rejected three to one. The Edinburgh plan cost £9m to produce and attempt to sell to the people.
"Instead of wasting more money on unwanted tolls plans, money should be spent on real improvements to traffic flow."