RICHMOND, FEB. 1 -- A deadlocked Virginia House of Delegates dealt Gov. Gerald L. Baliles an unexpected but probably temporary setback today when it defeated a proposal to raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 65 mph for cars.

Torn by some lawmakers' warnings of greater highway carnage and a desire by others for a uniform higher speed limit for both cars and trucks, the House ended a two-hour debate on the proposal with a 48-to-48 tie vote, a stalemate giving Baliles and his legislative allies ample time to turn around the handful of delegates they need when the measure comes up again Tuesday.

"It'll be the governor's bill tomorrow," predicted Minority Leader Raymond R. (Andy) Guest Jr. (R-Front Royal), as embarrassed proponents used a parliamentary ploy to delay further discussion of the speed limit bill.

As endorsed by Baliles and narrowly approved last week by a key House committee, the measure would set the higher speed limit for cars on 789 miles of interstate in Virginia, while restricting 18-wheelers to 55 mph.

Interstates in urban areas, such as Northern Virginia, greater Richmond and Hampton Roads, would retain the current 55 mph limit for cars and trucks alike. However, I-95 south of Woodbridge and I-66 west of Bull Run -- both of which carry many Northern Virginia commuters daily -- would be subject to the higher speed limits.

Proponents of the two-tier speed limit, once confident about its passage, saw the measure stalled today by criticism from an unlikely coalition of delegates who said it would increase traffic deaths and those who contended that a higher speed for all vehicles was the safest alternative.

"Sixty-five across the board is the way to go," said Del. James H. Dillard II (R-Fairfax), one of the many Republicans who joined forces with several Northern Virginia Democrats and rural delagates to defeat the two-tier speed limit.

"I don't think there's any question it's going to cost some lives -- that is a callous view," Dillard said after the tie vote. "But how many is problematical. Because many are now driving 70 mph, the difference {in fatalities} between this year and next year would be very small."

Del. Mary A. Marshall (D-Arlington) opposed any change in the limit, saying federal estimates indicate that higher speeds would lead to 21 additional deaths annually on Virginia highways.

Advocates of the dual speed limits were hard pressed to defend the proposal. Freshman Del. Jack Kennedy (D-Wise), who had to relinquish his defense of the bill to a more senior Democrat, asked his colleagues at one point to "look at this bill as a way to enhance tourism." Families driving from one vacation spot to another would shave hours off their traveling time, Kennedy reasoned.

Del. Clinton Miller (R-Shenandoah), one of several legislators to pounce on that suggestion, said, "Even if Williamsburg is moved closer to Abingdon, it's not worth the threat of additional loss of life."

Del. C. Richard Cranwell (D-Vinton), a longtime Baliles ally who was managing the bill on the House floor, disputed the opponents' claims that higher speeds invariably lead to greater fatalities.

"We are not going to change the face of travel on rural interstates if we pass this bill," Cranwell said. "There's going to be no great carnage."

After the vote, the House considered and later rejected a substitute proposal for a uniform 60 mph speed limit for trucks and cars on rural interstates. On Tuesday, delegates may consider another option previously rejected in committee: setting a uniform 65 mph limit for all vehicles.