JEFFERSON CITY - Don't plan on pushing the gas pedal to the floor any time soon. Missouri's governor has taken back the holiday-season present Congress and the president gave to Missouri motorists.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mel Carnahan invoked a provision in the federal law to delay until mid-March repeal of the federal speed limit.
Tuesday, President Clinton signed a bill that repeals the federal law requiring states to adopt the 55-65 mph speed limits.
Missouri law states that once the federal limits are repealed, Missouri's speed limits would return their pre-1974 limits.
However, a provision in the federal repeal provides that if a state's legislature is not in session, the governor of that state can request a 60-day delay in the repeal.
Carnahan invoked that provision by sending a letter to the U.S. Transportation Secretary asking for a 60-day delay - starting Jan. 3 when the state legislature convenes.
"We want to get the legislature involved in the process," said Chris Sifford, the governor's spokesman.
In the mean time, the governor has assigned a task force to review how the changes in the speed limit will affect Missouri and how the state will proceed, Sifford said.
Sifford said he expects the task force to reach a decision by the beginning of the legislative session.
Sifford said the governor has come no conclusions about the issue.
Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee Chairman announced he was filing legislation that would raise the speed limits only for four-lane highways.
If the legislature cannot reach agreement on a new speed limit law by mid-March, the federal repeal automatically would take effect.
That would raise the speed limit to 70 mph on the interstates highways. Other state highways would have a 70 mph day-time limit and 65 mph limit at night.
Meanwhile, Sifford said the state Highway Patrol will continue to enforce the current seed limits.
"Speed limits in Missouri have not changed." Sifford said. "The (current) speed limit will be strictly enforced."
Sifford said he realizes some Missourians may be unsure about the current speed limits.
He said the governor had asked the Highway Patrol to undertake efforts to help inform the public about retention of the current speed limits.
"The public will be made aware of new speed limits before an arrest is made," said Lt. Ron Beck, spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol.