Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly says she wants a "public debate" on how best to spend £20bn of Whitehall cash on road, rail and airport schemes.
Ms Kelly says building five times as many roads is unrealistic
A policy review suggests high-speed rail links, "congestion charging" for more towns and cities, wider motorways and extra airport capacity.
The study is a response to reports on transport and climate change.
But Greenpeace criticised it for not ruling out more airport expansion. The Tories said it was more "empty words".
The report does not commit to a national road pricing scheme - which was supported in the government commissioned Eddington review but prompted a petition signed by 1.8m people on the Downing Street website.
The strategy says any future decision will be based on the success of local schemes.
Ms Kelly told the BBC the Eddington report offered a stark choice between widespread road pricing and building five times as many roads.
"The latter doesn't seem very realistic but I think there are intermediate options that we need to consider," she said.
"If urban areas want to come forward and bid for a package of measures which would significantly improve their public transport system but combine that with some kind of longer-term road pricing... we will judge those bids on their merits after local people have been consulted about whether that is right."
Other options put forward for reducing congestion on England's most congested routes - include high-speed rail links of up to 200mph between London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Widening motorways or using "active traffic management" - such as the M42's hard shoulder scheme - are also suggested.
But double-decker motorways, dedicated freight links and high-speed "magnetic levitation" trains were ruled out, due to cost or because they are considered inappropriate.
The report forecast a "significant growth" in air travel and "some growth in capacity particularly in the congested south east".
But it proposes emissions trading should be used to ensure increases in carbon dioxide emissions were matched tonne-for-tonne by reductions elsewhere in the economy.
However, Greenpeace director John Sauven said: "Bringing planes into the emissions trading scheme will ensure it's business as usual for Labour's friends in the aviation industry.
"Without blocking plans for new runways we'll continue to tinker ineffectively with Britain's fastest growing source of emissions."
And Lib Dem transport spokeswoman Susan Kramer added: "This announcement seems to be a list of every transport idea ministers have read on a website, instead of being a coherent vision for Britain's future transport system."
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said there had been "announcement after announcement" on projects like the north-south high speed rail links "without any indication that they might actually happen".
Campaigners say aircraft expansion must be stopped
"The travelling public know that these are empty words," she said.
And Green Party principal speaker Caroline Lucas added: "Kelly's policy of large-scale road building and even greater aviation capacity is on a collision course with the UK's climate change targets."
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said tackling emissions needed a "global solution" and the UK had been "a leading voice in pressing for international action".
The report will be followed by a Green Paper and formal consultation next spring.