The seven councils of the West Midlands are to ask for more than #1 million from the Government to research congestion charging in the region.
After months of speculation, the move is being seen as the first step towards bid-ding to become the pilot area for a national, satellite-based road pricing scheme.
The leaders of the seven district authorities are proposing a #1.2 million feasibility study, to take place between autumn this year and next summer, to investigate levels of traffic congestion and examine solutions, including road pricing and public transport improvements.
The money for the study would come from the Government?s new Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), a pot of #18 million over the next three years for authorities prepared to investigate bold congestion-busting schemes.
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Wolverhampton City Council leader Roger Lawrence, who leads on transport for the joint committee, said the future competitiveness and quality of life in the region was at stake.
?What works today may not be effective tomorrow. Bidding for this money doesn?t commit us to any scheme.
?If we are successful it simply gives us the means to assess which options will work for the West Midlands and which ones won?t.?
While the seven districts are not yet publicly committing to road user charging, it is understood the West Midland business community?s vocal support for the idea has helped overcome political concerns.
Simon Murphy, chairman of professional sector lobby group Birmingham Forward, said the region ?doing nothing about congestion is simply not an option?.
?We support the decision of the joint leaders. It is vital the region is involved in shaping how the system goes forward,? he said.
John Lamb, spokesman for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: ?It is sensible to go for this, to ignore the opportunities that road pricing carries with it would be to the detriment of the West Midlands as a whole.?
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is courting the West Midlands as his preferred pilot area for a future national scheme.
The pilot region will also have access to the lion?s share of the TIF fund, which is predicted to reach #2.5 billion a year by 2015, for substantive public transport improvements.
Congestion in the West Midlands is estimated to cost the local economy #2.5 billion every year.
Traffic levels are also predicted to have risen by 15 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
The TIF bid will be formally considered at a meeting of the Joint Committee next Friday.
If agreed, it will be submitted to government that day, with a decision expected in November.
Coun Gary Clarke, chairman of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, said: ?If there are major new sources of funding on the horizon, let?s look at the opportunity to position our region to be among the first to benefit.?