Lowcountry Area Transportation Study (LATS)
The Hilton Head Island/Bluffton urbanized area population was recorded by the 2010 Census as 68,998 residents, and is now classified as a “Small Urban Area". Federal regulations require the formation of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to “provide continuous, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning” for areas with urbanized populations of 50,000 or more. The Lowcountry Area Transportation Study (LATS) was established in 2013 as the MPO responsible. As well as the relevant unincorporated areas of Beaufort and Jasper counties, LATS includes the municipalities of Beaufort, Bluffton, Hardeeville, Hilton Head Island and Port Royal and is the first new MPO established in South Carolina in more than 20 years. The planning area comprises the land currently designated as urban by the most recent US Census and also land expected to be designated as urban within the next 20 years.
LATS administers the planning process that determines how the area’s federal transportation dollars will be spent. These funds cover improvements for all elements of the transportation network, including roads and streets, bridges, public transit and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. This process promotes the development of a safe, effective, efficient and environmentally sensitive multimodal transportation system for moving people and goods in the LATS area.
The MPO is responsible for three major plans:
- The Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) identifies current and future transportation needs and provide multi-modal strategies and projects to address these needs. Federal funding cannot be allocated to transportation projects unless they are on the LRTP project list. The projects will be fiscally constrained, meaning that the MPO cannot spend more money than it expects to receive. In 2015 LATS adopted its first LRTP which is required to be updated every five years. However, the LRTP is a living document which can be amended and revised as needed to reflect emerging regional priorities.
- The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) details all projects and programs to be Federally-funded. These projects and programs will result from the LRTP. The TIP covers a period of five years but is updated annually.
- The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) outlines LATS MPO transportation planning activities that use funds provided by federal and state transportation agencies and local MPO contributions. UPWPs are adopted prior to each fiscal year.