The Highways Agency boss has warned that the English road network has barely changed in the past two decades and that pressure on it is "growing again".
Graham Dalton appeared before the House of Commons Transport Committee and stressed that motorways and major A roads are vital for everyday business.
Mr Dalton mentioned the M6 toll road in the West Midlands, which was opened as a relief road 11 years ago but still only sees around a third of the traffic of the main M6 route.
He said: "We are spending a lot of money to upgrade the old route when, on the face of it, we should be getting more traffic on the toll road."
The trade union side of the Highways Agency, which submitted written evidence to the committee, said the toll road had "proved a disaster both as an investment and as a relief road".
Referring to the agency's relationship with local councils, Mr Dalton said: "There are a lot of local authorities. I run a lean business. I don't think we offer a full active dialogue with all local authorities. Some of them will agree that we don't engage enough. I know some are quite happy. We need the dialogue with local authorities, but it varies."
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill also appeared before the committee and admitted that too little has been invested in the road network over the years, adding that the transport budget is now bigger than it used to be.
He also said a good rule was to put "I before E", with a focus on infrastructure (I) before expansion (E).
Mr Goodwill said: "I think that particularly in south east England expansion has ripped ahead without the infrastructure catching up."
Copyright Press Association 2014