SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- President Nixon today signed a bill requiring all states," as a gasoline-saving measure, to reduce the maximum speed limit to 55 miles an hour, under threat of losing federal highway money.
Nixon said that driving slower will reduce the amount of gasoline and diesel fuel needed to keep the nation's motor vehicles rolling.
"Estimates indicate that we can save nearly 200,000 barrels of fuel a day by observing a national limit of 55 miles per hour," he said.
Many states already have lowered speed limits.
Under the legislation, the White House said all states now have 60 days to "fix a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour on all highways under (their) jurisdiction; establish a speed limit of 55 miles an hour on certain major highways; and require on all other highways that the speed limit be uniformly applicable to all vehicles, subject to certain exceptions."
Federal highway funds are to be cut off for any state which does not conform with those provisions by the 60-day deadline.
While slowing down cars and trucks, Nixon moved to put new life into financially sick railroads, signing a bill to pave the way for merger of seven Midwestern and Northeastern railroads under a new federal rail corporation.
He said in a statement he would send additonal rail legislation to Congress soon because "with the added pressures brought on by the energy crisis, we must press hard to rebuild and strengthen our entire nationwide rail freight system."
The highway speed bill will remain in effect until June 30, 1975, unless the President declares at an earlier date that "there is not a fuel shortage requiring this authority" the White House said.
Nixon, in a statement, said he was "gratified" with those states which already have set a 55 mile-per-hour limit on their major roads in response to his earlier request for such action voluntarily. He also thanked those drivers who have held to slower speeds in states were the limits have not been changed officially.
"With the attitude of cooperation and mutual concern expressed by a wide range of conservation actions by individual Americans, the social and economic impacts of the energy crisis can be minimized and we can look forward even more confidently to the day when we will become self-sufficient in energy," Nixon said.
Other provisions of the bill authorized:
-- Use of highway funds until Dec. 31 to support 90 per cent of the cost of experimental carpool programs set up by local governments. Nixon said such projects "can do so much to reduce the number of automobiles being inefficiently used on congested urban highways."
-- A six-month extension of the Jan. 1, 1974 deadline on mandatory installation of emergency locator transmitters on privately owned airplanes, except for jets and commercial aircraft.