Commissioner Joe Young of Georgetown has asked staffers at the agency to research how to transfer dirt roads, parking lots, subdivision roads and short roads that lead to individual homes or buildings.
"We have lots of roads that have no reason being on the state system," said Commissioner Tee Hooper, of Greenville.
South Carolina has the fourth-largest state road system in the U.S. Many of those are secondary roads ineligible for federal funding.
"We have entirely too many locally oriented roads in a state-maintained system," said state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens.
But cutting those roads loose is not politically popular, he said.
Mike Cone, executive director of the South Carolina Association of Counties, said county councils might be wary of taking over roads because of money issues.
"The history of state mandates is not good," Mr. Cone said. "They seldom provide adequate funding."
Mr. Martin said the state got responsibility for the roads as many as 60 years ago as local governments turned them over in hopes of getting them fixed. The state stopped accepting new local roads in 1994.
"What should have been done, I guess, is the Legislature should have dedicated a portion of the gasoline tax back in the '50s, '60s and '70s to the maintenance of local roads," he said.
Mr. Hooper said the state can reduce its inventory of roads by 10 percent by transferring the roads to the counties.
Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven said he would like to see what kind of deals the state would offer for the transfer.