Building new roads causes more traffic, according to a study of over 80 road schemes by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
It found that congestion initially falls, but often this doesn't last long as new roads result in people swapping from public transport and making more journeys.
New roads didn't provide a boost to local economies either, but did cause "long-lasting and significant" environmental impacts, according to the analysis which looked at the government's published evaluation of completed road schemes.
Of 25 schemes which had been arranged on the basis they would benefit the local economy, five had evidence of economic benefit, though the report said it was not possible to directly attribute this to the road schemes "because of the paucity of evidence for these five schemes".
All new schemes put pressure on adjoining roads, while there were negligible reductions in journey times.
The research was published as Highways England, which mans Britain's 4,300 miles of motorways and major trunk roads, starts consultation over funding new roads.
Ralph Smyth, head of infrastructure and legal at CPRE, said:
Rather than looking to the past, the government must invest in a forward looking mobility strategy that puts quality of life ahead of the car.
The government should reopen old rail lines, offer people travel options in town and countryside, and harness new technology to make more efficient use of road space.
We are seemingly stuck in an ideological traffic jam from which we cannot escape. Building ever bigger roads should be the last resort – not the default choice.
Earlier this month, the chancellor announced local authorities would be able to compete for funds to "get local transport networks moving again" and was allocating £690m to the project.
Highways England said the strategic road network was "vital to the success of the UK economy" and the improvements it was delivering "will ensure our roads continue to operate safely, efficiently and effectively".
The Department for Transport (DfT) said: “Good transport is key to keeping communities moving and connecting people to homes, businesses and jobs. We are investing in our roads to cut congestion and make journeys quicker, safer and more reliable.
“We are also making record investments in modernising rail to provide the faster, more comfortable and less crowded trains that passengers have told us they want, as well as trebling spending on cycling and walking, to reduce demand on our roads and to improve air quality.”