Fines of up to £5,000 a day could be imposed on councils and utility companies that leave road works unmanned at weekends.
The proposal is designed to reduce congestion on English A-roads managed by local authorities.
Work on such major routes would have to be carried out seven days a week, or road restrictions would have to be removed when no work is taking place.
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Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: 'Road works can be essential but that doesn't mean they should be in place any longer than is absolutely necessary.
'These common sense measures will be a welcome relief to those trying to get from A to B on our local roads.'
The Department for Transport said it was also considering imposing fines if temporary traffic lights are left in place after work has finished.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, told the BBC: 'Road users see red when they come across sets of temporary traffic lights that are stopping traffic but there are no workmen in sight or the work has actually finished.
'Ministers can't stop utility companies digging up the roads but they can make firms pay the price if the work is not done swiftly and they do not tidy up after themselves.'
There is an existing penalty of £5,000 per day for delayed roadworks, however these 'overun' charges do not apply to councils.
A DfT spokesman said a decision on how best to implement the changes, whether through legislation or some other means, would be taken in due course.
The Local Government Association's environment spokesman Cllr Peter Box said there is already a strong financial incentive for roadworks to be finished as quickly as possible because the costs and often when works are left unattended it is for a very reason, for example to let concrete dry.
He said: 'Councils and utility companies are working closely together to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. We have long called for the expansion of the lane rental scheme, which currently operates in London, where it has reduced delays significantly. Under the scheme, contractors pay for the time they occupy busy roads and are therefore incentivised to get the job done properly and on time.
'Councils need more powers to tackle congestion. Measures which would meet this objective include fully funding the concessionary fares scheme, handing control over the Bus Service Operators' Grant – a fuel duty rebate paid directly to bus operators by the Government – to councils and giving them the power to enforce moving traffic violations, including illegal U-turns and box junction offences, to tackle congestion hotspots.'